Trouble falling asleep can stem from a number of events. Your dog died. A family member was in a car accident. You have a big presentation at work.
Acute insomnia, or trouble falling asleep for a few days, typically can be fixed by adjusting sleep routine and environment.
Develop a sleep routine
“A popular reason I find people are not falling asleep quickly is routine,” said Susan Trudeau, Marshfield Clinic Health System sleep medicine nurse practitioner.
The human body learns when to get tired and when to wake if a person keeps a sleep schedule.
“Too often, we sleep less during the work week and think we’ll catch up during the weekend,” Trudeau said. “That doesn’t help our bodies learn when to sleep, which can make falling asleep difficult.”
About 30 minutes before bedtime, begin a routine. These tips can help you relax:
- Drink a glass of milk or herbal tea.
- Eat a small snack.
- Meditate, do yoga or deep breathing.
- Read a simple, leisurely book.
- Take a warm shower or bath.
Protect your sleep environment
A noisy sleep environment also hinders the body’s ability to fall asleep.
Television, electronics and your cellphone may keep you awake.
Sometimes it’s as simple as light shining through a window or door.
Take these steps to adjust your sleep environment:
- Purchase room-darkening shades.
- Turn down your bedroom temperature.
- Remove TVs and computers from the bedroom.
- Avoid electronic use an hour or two before bedtime.
- Fill the room with pleasant scents, like lavender or vanilla.
- Listen to soothing sounds like rain, river water or white noise.
Sleep-aiding medications, supplements
Over-the-counter medications taken for falling asleep quickly are okay to use as short-term solutions, Trudeau said.
Most people can take melatonin every night, if needed. This is a natural hormone in the body. As we age, less melatonin is produced, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep quickly.
Talk to your doctor before using melatonin regularly.
When to see a doctor
Acute insomnia that lasts a few days at a time and goes away is not medically concerning.
Chronic insomnia that occurs more than three nights a week for at least three months is concerning.
“The sooner you talk to your primary doctor or see a specialist, the better chances we have at treating insomnia,” Trudeau said.
Insomnia or not sleeping well can become a habit.
If you’ve adjusted your routine and sleep environment but are still having troubles falling asleep quickly after one month, see a doctor.