Actress Christina Applegate recently revealed a long-term battle with insomnia, and anyone who's ever gone through an extended period of being unable to sleep will welcome her revelation because it's not a condition that's often discussed, despite being extremely common.
Applegate, 44, told People that she has had insomnia for around 20 years and that she still only gets around three hours of sleep a night.
"In my 20s and 30s, I used to never be able to fall asleep and would just stay up all night long,” she said. “It’s something a lot of people don’t talk about. It affects your spiritual self, emotional self and physical self.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, insufficient sleep is a public health problem. Among the U.S. population, up to 70 million people are affected by sleep disorders, of which insomnia is the most prevalent.
After her daughter, Sadie Grace, was born in 2011, Applegate continued to struggle to sleep for any extended period of time.
"I got into a three-hour feeding cycle," she said. "Now she sleeps 10 hours a night, but my body still wakes up every few hours. I’ll also be up from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. and finally fall asleep. And then [Sadie Grace] comes in and is ready for breakfast!”
The sleep disorder insomnia is a lot different than the occasional sleepless night. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, it may be a short-term condition, triggered by stress or trauma, or it may be chronic, meaning it lasts much longer, brought on by a medical condition, medication or substance. Some sufferers have insomnia with no obvious cause.
Fortunately, there are many treatment options out there, both medical and nonmedical. Over-the-counter and prescription medication, cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation training may be successful, and sometimes a combination of these will work.
This week, the American College of Physicians published new guidelines stating that the most effective treatment for chronic insomnia is a specific form of psychotherapy that combines talk therapy and sleep tutorials. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, a combination of treatments that include cognitive therapy around sleep, behavioral interventions such as sleep restriction and stimulus control, and education such as sleep hygiene (habits for a good night's sleep), should be the first-line treatment for adults with chronic insomnia, according to the ACP.
Follow these tips to help improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Experts recommend turning the thermostat a few degrees lower than normal for the best night's sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping the room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.
Scientific research shows that the blue light from TVs and phones can suppress melatonin, the hormone that tells our bodies it's time to sleep.
Screen time immediately before bed isn't considered to be conducive to a good night's sleep, but some people with insomnia find it easier to fall asleep while watching TV. If this is you, ensure the timer is set so it shuts off at a certain time. You could also use orange-tinted glasses while watching to block some of the screen's sleep-damaging light.
Very light sleepers should take all necessary steps to ensure nothing will disturb their sleep. No noise, no light, no pets on the bed — every little bit helps.
If your insomnia has become a pattern or if you regularly feel daytime fatigue that interferes with your daily life, ask for help, advises the National Sleep Foundation.
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