sleep disorders Murrieta

Insomnia chronicles: What to do in the evening when you can't sleep

Insomnia is a huge pain. But if you struggle with insomnia, you already know that. But did you know that there are some strategies you could use to help prepare your mind for sleep so that you're not eternally banished to a frustrating night of tossing and turning? Here are some things you could do in the evening to begin to wind down before bedtime. The goal is not necessarily to wear yourself out. The goal is simply to help your mind begin to shut down, so that you can have a relaxing night of sleep.

Listen to slow, relaxing music: In this social media age, most of us have our phones glued to our hands 24 hours of the day. But if you read my previous post about the 5 habits that keep your insomnia going strong, you already know that the blue light that our electronic devices emit, actually prevents our brains from producing the right sleep chemicals at the right time. Translation: Your phone might be preventing you from sleeping. So what should you do to help you wind down at night? Listen to soothing music. The emphasis is on soothing. Ensure that the music does not drum up any difficult feelings of anger, sadness or hurt. The last thing you want is to go to bed feeling enraged or sad. Perhaps something soft and instrumental will help your brain know that it's time to shut off the day's worries, and it will begin to get ready to sleep. If you find yourself drifting off to sleep when you're listening to music, then you know you're on the right track.

Knit, sew or quilt: Yes, I know, very few people actually knit, sew or quilt these days, but these are gentle, relaxing activities that don't take much thought. You want to avoid activities that make you think or worry right before going to bed. Why? Because you'll end up tossing and turning as you ponder all night. The point is you don't want to lay in bed for hours on end before it's your actual bedtime, so find a calming activity to tide you over until it's time to lay in the bed. Avoid just laying in bed for hours on end. Not only is it frustrating, it makes your insomnia worse. And if you absolutely don't knit, sew or quilt, find something else soothing that doesn't involve a TV, phone or tablet. Remember these electronic devices emit blue light that can worsen your insomnia or make it harder for you to sleep.

Organize old books, pictures and clothes: Insomnia and other sleep disorders are tricky. You might feel exhausted during the day, but then when it's finally time to sleep at night, you lay wide awake. So instead of dragging yourself to bed at 6pm, stay up a little longer and do something productive. Organize old books, pictures or maybe even your closet. If you're a fan of Marie Kondo- the great organizing queen- then you know all about how to fold and tidy up. And if you've never heard of Marie Kondo, just do a quick Google search to find out how to tidy up your entire home. The bonus part of tidying up is that a tidy bedroom actually helps you feel more relaxed. And a relaxed mind is the perfect recipe for good sleep.

Take a bath or a shower: In an ideal world, your body temperature should rise in the morning when the sun comes up. This triggers your brain to wake up. Your temperature climbs steadily until evening time, when the sun goes down. After the sun sets, your body temperature begins to fall. This signals your body to begin to release melatonin, which helps you sleep. To help you get ready to sleep, try taking a cool shower. Of course, nothing too chilly- you don't want to catch a cold. Perhaps a warm shower to help your body temperature begin to drop. If you're a fan of baths, get some relaxing music, a few drops of essential oils, grab a good book, and soak in the tub. This will help you forget the worries of the day and prepare your body for sleep.

Make your lunch for the next day: And if you absolutely cannot quiet your mind after taking a shower, you might as well begin to prep for the next day. Evening time is a great time to pack lunches for the kids, cut up vegetables for the next day or even prep breakfast for the next day. When you wake up the next morning with lots of free time on your hands, your body will thank you.

And if you'd like to learn a lot more habits to help you sleep, click here to learn more about 5 habits that could help you sleep.

What do you like to do in the evening to keep insomnia away? And if you're a woman struggling with insomnia, click here to schedule a free 15 minute consultation call to see if CBT for insomnia treatment in Murrieta is the right one for you. In as little as 2 months, you can go from frustrated insomniac to sleeping like a log. I also provide online sessions to women throughout California. Call now.

Insomnia and sleep chronicles: The scary truth about those sleeping pills you take

Insomnia sucks. Something as simple as sleep becomes elusive. You do everything you can to get some sleep, but nothing works. So you head over to your primary care physician and he prescribes you a sleeping pill. You take it one day and it seems to work. So you begin to pop a sleeping pill every night. One year later, it is part of your routine. You put your pajamas on, get some water, swallow your pill and drift off to sleep. However, there are some scary facts about sleeping pills you don't know.

1) They are not tested for long term use: When your doctor or physician writes that prescription for Ambien or Lunesta, his expectation is that you only take it as needed. As needed means taking it every once in a while- not every day or twice a day. Truth is that these sleeping pills haven't actually been tested for every day use. So who really knows the long term side effects of these seemingly harmless pills that you're popping each day? Pretty scary.

2) You might be overdosing yourself: Let's get sciencey (I know it's not a real word). Well, the half life of a substance, is the amount of time it takes for half the amount of that substance to be metabolized or eliminated from your body. With sleep medications, many of them remain in your system when you take your next dose. So for example, the half life of Ativan and Xanax is 12 hours. So it means it takes 12 hours for half the dose to be eliminated in your body. It means that if you take 1 Xanax at 7pm, by 7am the next morning, half of the dose is still swimming around in your system. So if you take another Xanax shortly after, you might have more of the dose than you need. When you take it day after day, you're layering the medication in your system.

3) Sleep medications can be more dangerous for women and the elderly: For some strange reason, these sleeping medications metabolize (get eliminated) slower at night, in women, and in the elderly. So as a woman, when you take sleep medications at night, it gets absorbed a lot slower than a man who took one during the day. Very few people actually take sleep medications during the day, so think about it. In the elderly there is also a greater risk for slip and falls due to the impaired next day coordination these sleeping pills could cause. 

4) There is a risk of dependency:  Physicians prescribe sleep medications as needed for a reason. When these pills are used over a long period of time, your body actually begins to depend on it. This means after a while, you don't get great quality sleep if you haven't taken your sleeping pill that night.

5) Sleeping pills don't cure insomnia:  What's the point of taking sleeping pills night after night if your insomnia is not going to go away? Many people take medication with the hope that the root cause of their sleep disorder will be solved. But in the case os insomnia medication, your insomnia doesn't get cured. What you're doing is essentially putting a small bandage on a big problem.

So before you rush to your physician for a magic pill, remember that sleeping pills aren't necessarily a cure all. 

 As a licensed marriage and family therapist who provides counseling and therapy to women with anxiety, I also provide insomnia treatment in Murrieta for women with insomnia using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I).  Find out more about CBT-I in this other blog post- Could CBT for Insomnia be the solution to your insomnia woes?

70-80 percent of individuals who undergo CBT-I treatment for insomnia experience vast improvement in their sleep. For women within California who are too far away from the Murrieta, Temecula or Menifee areas, I provide CBT for insomnia treatment online. CBT-I is a 5 to 8 week treatment for people who struggle with insomnia. It's the first line insomnia treatment in the USA and it is highly recommended by sleep researchers and experts. 

Click here to schedule your free 15 minute consultation call so that insomnia can be a thing of the past. You can also call me at 951-905-3181 to find out how CBT for insomnia can help you sleep again in as little as 5 sessions.

Remember, if you are within California, but you are not in the Murrieta/Temecula area, I also provide CBT for insomnia treatment online.