Medically Reviewed by Dr. Elisabeth Vincent Hamelin
Sleep problems are common. Usually, there is nothing you need to worry about. It is not dangerous to occasionally have a night when you get too little sleep. But if you sleep too little night after night, get tired, feel poor and work worse in your everyday life, you may need help getting better sleep.
This text is about sleeping difficulties in adults. You can also read the text Child and sleep, and the text Sleep is important for your health.
How do I know if I am getting enough sleep?
Sleep is needed for the brain and body to recover. Adults usually sleep between six and nine hours a night. You usually don’t have to worry about getting too little sleep. It is common and not dangerous to occasionally have a night when you sleep poorly or not at all. If it’s about a single night, you may feel tired and less creative the next day, but most people still manage to do everyday tasks. Sleep usually returns to normal by itself. But if you sleep too little night after night, you can get tired, feel bad and work worse in everyday life.
- 1 Signs of sleep deprivation
- 2 Sometimes sleep is better than you think
- 3 Stress and sleep
- 4 Sound in the environment
- 5 Snoring can interfere with sleep
- 6 Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine can interfere with sleep
- 7 Diseases can cause or aggravate sleep disorders
- 8 The older, the more easily awakened
- 9 Reduce the stress of your life
- 10 Touch you regularly
- 11 Try to lose weight if you snore
- 12 Tranquil activities before bedtime
- 13 Avoid light at night
- 14 Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
- 15 Take a short sleep during the day
- 16 Let the bed be a sleeping area
- 17 You who work night
- 18 Minimize jet lag when traveling
- 19 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, KBT
- 20 Treatment with drugs
- 21 The main Quilt
- 22 Investigation at sleep laboratory
Signs of sleep deprivation
Important measures of adequate sleep are how moody you are and how you work in everyday life. For example, you who have sleep deprivation may find it more difficult to manage your everyday tasks, to remember things and to concentrate. It is also common for you to easily fall asleep in situations when you are passive, such as when watching TV, sitting in a meeting, or listening to a lecture. One sign of sleep deprivation may also be that your emotions fluctuate more between different situations and that you overreact in different ways. For example, you may find it easier to get angry, sad, and annoyed compared to when you’ve had enough sleep.
Sometimes sleep is better than you think
Everyone is awake for short moments at night but you only remember it if you’ve been awake longer than three to five minutes. It may be enough with a few longer awakenings a night for you to experience it as if the night’s sleep has been worse. But sleep can be sufficient in any case.
Fatigue in the morning does not mean that you have slept poorly. Sleep has different phases. During these phases you sometimes sleep deeper and sometimes more superficially. If you are in deep sleep when the alarm clock rings, you will feel tired and drowsy and may be more difficult to wake up. You should therefore assess your night’s sleep according to how you feel later in the day.
When should I seek care?
Contact a health care center if you have long-standing sleep problems that you cannot remedy on your own. Prolonged sleep disorders are disorders that have lasted for more than four weeks and come at least every other night.
Sleep problems may be one or more of the following problems:
- You have trouble falling asleep, that is, it takes more than 45 minutes.
- You wake up once or more at night and have trouble falling asleep.
- You wake up early in the mornings before being exercised and without being able to fall asleep.
Call telephone number 911 if you need medical advice. Then you can get help to assess symptoms or help with where you can seek care.
Causes of sleep disorders
For example, sleep problems may be due to stress and anxiety. It can also be due to a disturbing environment. Sometimes it is difficult to determine what it is that causes sleep disorders and what it is that aggravates sleep disorders.
Stress and sleep
The most common cause of sleep problems is stress. Under stress, the entire nervous system is alert to awakening, and you find it difficult to unwind and fall asleep. Sleep can become superficial with stress and you may wake up early in the morning. It is common for you then to have trouble falling asleep.
Stress can have many causes. It can be time pressure, demands at work and at leisure or maybe financial problems. But it can also be about putting very high demands on yourself.
Unprocessed experiences from the past as well as negative thoughts and feelings can also be causes of stress.
Sound in the environment
Noise in the environment is a common cause of sleep difficulties. This can be, for example, a disturbance such as traffic noise, loud neighbors or that you sleep in the same room as someone who snores loudly. Toddler parents often have a period in life when they constantly get their sleep disturbed by the children.
Snoring can interfere with sleep
Snoring can interfere with sleep both for those who snore and for those who share a bedroom with someone who snores. You who snore a lot and vigorously may have something called sleep apnea. This means that you do short breathing breaks during sleep and that your body gets oxygen deficiency during it. Breathing breaks interrupt sleep and make you tired during the days. To find out if you have a respiratory break, you need to contact a health care center to get an examination and a medical assessment.
Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine can interfere with sleep
Alcohol can make you fall asleep easier, but your sleep becomes more superficial and sleep becomes more anxious than it otherwise would have been. In addition, alcohol shortens sleep and you wake up earlier than usual. Alcohol can, through its relaxing effect, help you snore more.
Nicotine and caffeine can also interfere with sleep. It is common that it takes longer to fall asleep if you are a smoker or snuff. Smokers or snus also wake up more often during the night than others. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, cola or energy drinks and it varies from person to person how late you can drink things containing caffeine if you want to be able to fall asleep without problems.
Diseases can cause or aggravate sleep disorders
Sometimes, sleeping difficulties can be due to problems and illnesses such as joint pain, difficulty breathing or leg cramps. If you have prostate problems, it is common for you to wake up several times at night to urinate, which also interferes with sleep. Heart failure, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety and dementia are other examples of illnesses that can affect sleep. Even a common cold can interfere with sleep because there is some effort to breathe.
The older, the more easily awakened
As we get older, sleep changes. Then we sleep more superficially and wake up more easily. It may feel like you are sleeping poorly, but is perfectly normal. The body does not need more sleep.
Women may notice the change associated with menopause. Then, for example, sleep can be affected by night sweats.
What can I do for myself?
If you have trouble sleeping, there are several things you can try to sleep better. A regular life with food and sleep at certain times and with physical activity can prevent sleep problems.
Reduce the stress of your life
Sleep problems are often associated with stress. It is important to think through what stress is basically about.
If you think your sleep problems are about stress and anxiety, it is important to try to reduce the activities that cause the stress. It can also be good to do things that make the body relax. One way is that you start to move more. Another is to do relaxation exercises. Practicing mindfulness, conscious presence, is another way to reduce stress.
Touch you regularly
Regular physical activity often makes you sleep better. You feel better, cope more and naturally get tired in the evening when you move regularly. In addition, stress, anxiety and depression decrease as you move, which in itself makes you sleep better.
Just a lot of physical activity to make you feel good is for example 30 – 60 minutes fast walk a day. But cycling, swimming, gymnastics, gardening or any other everyday exercise are just as good. The important thing is that you move. Adapt to your energy if you are untrained.
Try to lose weight if you snore
Snoring can disrupt the night’s sleep, both for those who snore and for those who share a bedroom with someone who snores. It is more common for you to snore if you are overweight. It is good to try to lose weight if you are overweight and think it affects sleep.
Tranquil activities before bedtime
As the body prepares for sleep, it automatically starts to go to sleep. Among other things, body temperature drops and you feel sleepy.
Try to take it easy for one to two hours before going to bed. It can be soothing to sit down for a while and close your eyes. Lying still for a while in a warm bath can also help you relax.
Write down things you need to remember for tomorrow on a note. Then it is easier to drop thoughts the next day.
The sleep deprivation is interrupted if you ignore the body’s sleep signals and continue to be active. Then you will find it difficult to fall asleep and have to wait until the body enters a resting state. It may take an hour. If you have problems with sleep, it is therefore important to plan your evening and may not start new activities just before you go to sleep.
Avoid light at night
The daylight in the morning and the day helps to keep track of your inner circadian rhythm. Avoid light late at night. During the summer months, it can be good to have a dark roller blind.
Even the light from a mobile screen and computer screen or the like can counteract sleep.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
Avoid coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks six hours before going to bed. Also try to reduce the amount of caffeine during the day. Those who smoke or sniff and who end up with this often improve your sleep.
Take a short sleep during the day
Many people who have poor night’s sleep want to sleep during the day. But you fall asleep deeply and sleep for a long time, the next night’s sleep is affected.
To get more energy, try sleeping for a short time during the day. Sleep time can be called nap or powernap. It must not be longer than 30 minutes. If you get into deep sleep it may take time before you get started and work again. Sleep time should not be taken too late in the day, as it reduces the depth of night sleep.
Let the bed be a sleeping area
Try to make the bed a quiet and relaxing place.
Here are some tips on what you can do to teach your brain that sleep has to do with sleep:
- Make sure it is dark, quiet and cool where you will sleep. The ideal temperature is 14-18 degrees. If you find that traffic noise or other noise is bothering you, earplugs may help. They are available for purchase at pharmacies.
- Do not read job papers in bed, rather be somewhere else when you work.
- Try moving clock or mobile. It can increase the stress of looking at the clock and seeing how the time for sleep decreases, or knowing how long it is until you get up.
- Don’t lie in bed for long. Get out of bed if you haven’t fallen asleep after half an hour. The bed itself can become a stress factor if the brain associates it with sleepless hours. Instead of lying awake in bed, you can do something quiet, such as reading or listening to relaxing music. When you feel sleepy, it’s time to go back to bed.
You who work night
Those who have irregular working hours or work at night may try to sleep for a short time before starting work. It can help prevent the fatigue caused by a night shift.
Minimize jet lag when traveling
If you travel across multiple time zones, your daily rhythm may be imbalanced with the local time. You suffer from so-called jet lag. The symptoms are often sleep disorders, fatigue or overactivity, but also hunger and the need to go to the bathroom occur at the “wrong” time of day. Performance is reduced during the period of the changeover. It is often about three to four days if you travel to, for example, the US east coast.
If you are going to be away for less than three days, it is good if you can stick to the daily rhythm that applies at home. You can do this by avoiding bright light during the time of day you usually sleep.
Should you be away for longer than three days, you should try to live as soon as possible according to the daily rhythm that applies to the place you have traveled to. You can speed up the adjustment by being awake when it is light and eating and socializing at times that are in keeping with the new daily rhythm.
There are various treatments you can try. If needed, you can also get prescription drugs. If your sleep difficulties are due to stress, you may need to make different changes in life depending on what the stress is about.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, KBT
KBT, is a psychological treatment method that can help with various types of sleep disorders. The treatment focuses on, among other things, that you should gain an increased knowledge of what contributes to sleep problems and that you get to exercise at home with the help of home tasks.
For example, you practice having regular sleeping times.
You also practice relaxation and stopping the thought. Thinking stops by learning a technique that stops the thoughts that keep you awake, such as thoughts that worry you. You also reduce the time you sleep to increase your need for sleep the next night. This makes your sleep deeper as you fall asleep.
Treatment with drugs
Sometimes you can get medication for sleep disorders. Which drug you are prescribed depends on what sleep disorders you have. The drug should be used as short as possible.
Some medicines cause you to fall asleep quickly while others cause you to sleep deeply all night. At the health center, a doctor can tell you more about which drugs can work for the sleeping problems you have.
The main Quilt
Weightlifting has become popular for use in sleeping difficulties. But it is unclear if that helps.
Investigations and investigations
During a doctor’s visit, you will be able to answer questions about sleep habits, fatigue and how you are doing. Then it is good if you have a sleep diary to start from.
In the Sunday diary, write down the answers to these questions every day:
- What time did you go to bed?
- What time did you fall asleep?
- What time did you wake up?
- How many times were you awake during the night?
- What did you do in the evening before you went to bed?
- How did the day after?
- Did you sleep during the day the next day?
At the doctor’s visit you also need to tell if you are taking any medicines as it may have an effect on sleep. After an examination, the doctor makes an assessment of the cause of the sleep problems and how to correct them.
Investigation at sleep laboratory
In some cases, you may receive a referral for investigation at a sleep laboratory where there is equipment to follow the sleep in detail.