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Why Can’t We Sleep?

Sleep can be elusive to many people, not just to those struggling with mental illness. Studies have shown that adults need at least 7 hours of sleep per night, with some research suggesting closer to 8 or 9 hours per night. However, the same research suggests that close to 1/3 of adults are getting 6 or fewer hours of sleep per night. Why is this? Not everyone suffers from a sleep disorder, but higher stress levels, long work hours, and constant use of screens (i.e. computers and phones) may be playing a part in our struggle for restorative sleep.

Even our obsession with “binge-watching” TV could be playing a part in our collective difficulty getting the rest we need. Binge-watching has been linked to insomnia symptoms and poor sleep quality. This is thought to be because of mental stimulation from watching multiple episodes of our favorite shows, not to mention pushing us to stay up later (just one more episode!), leading to missed hours of sleep.

So what can be done to get us back on track for healthy sleep? In order to reset the circadian rhythm and promote healthy sleep, suggestions include sleep scheduling. This involves matching the time you spend in bed with your sleep ability, or the amount of time you normally sleep. Tossing and turning in an effort to get sleep may lead to anxiety and frustration, therefore making it that much harder to fall asleep. So, if you typically only sleep for 6 hours, scheduling only 6 hours in bed may help to begin the process of resetting your circadian rhythm and promoting more restorative sleep.

Let’s say you have to get up for work at 7:00am. Maybe you typically go to bed at 11:00pm in an effort to get the recommended 8 hours of sleep. However, you toss and turn for some time before falling asleep, and you wake multiple times during the night, resulting in closer to 6 hours of sleep at most. In order to combat this issue, the recommendation would be to go to bed at 1:00am to get your 6 hours of sleep. The logic behind this being that by employing “sleep restriction”, you retrain your brain to promote “sleep efficiency”. Your drive to sleep will be stronger at 1:00am, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. Then as you continue this process, you can slowly begin to go to bed earlier, hopefully leading to more restful and longer periods of sleep.

Always check with a medical professional before attempting any new sleep strategy to ensure this is right for you. For more information, check out the links below, or ask the staff at Main St. Psychiatry for more tips and tricks to improve your sleep!

Original materials found at the following links: