Obstacles to Good Sleep

Reviewed Jan 19, 2017

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Summary

  • Life changes, such as having a baby, can rob people of much needed sleep.
  • Certain lifestyle habits can get in the way of sleep.
  • There are steps you can take to overcome sleep obstacles.

Adults in the United States get less sleep than experts recommend. In the short term, moods worsen and accidents are more likely. In the long term, adults face a bigger risk of many health problems. Infections, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are linked to sleep loss over time.

Sometimes, sleep disorders are to blame for poor or little sleep. Other times, lifestyle choices or life events disrupt sleep. But although there may be hurdles to good sleep, there are ways to get past them.

A new baby

Having a new baby at home can be tiring. While parents focus on the baby’s sleep, sleep for parents can take a backseat. Yet there are ways to cope during those early days:

  • Share tasks at night. If mom is breastfeeding, she can pump milk so that dad can take on a nighttime feeding. If you are using a bottle, take turns feeding.
  • Sleep when baby sleeps. Resist the urge to use this time to catch up on chores.
  • Ask for help. When people visit, ask if they can watch the baby while you rest.
  • Use a bassinet or crib. When you are ready to sleep, put the baby in a crib or next to you in a bassinet rather than in the bed with you. This way, you won't need to worry about your baby’s safety.
  • Try to watch and wait. Your baby’s cries may mean he or she is settling down. Wait to see if the cries continue as a sign of hunger or discomfort before getting out of bed.

Noisy bed partners

Sometimes the biggest sleep disruption comes from the person next to you. If you or your bed partner snores, try these tips for quieter rest:

  • If the snoring partner is a back sleeper, nudge him or her to roll to the side.
  • Skip alcohol and late night meals. Both make snoring worse.
  • Think about seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist.
  • Wear earplugs or use a white noise machine to drown out sounds.

If you or your partner has to leave the room because of snoring or kicking during the night, it is time to see a doctor.

Medicines and herbs

Medicines and herbs may be designed to help us, but some can disrupt sleep. This includes some you buy on your own and some that are given to you by a doctor, including:

  • High blood pressure medicines
  • Hormones such as oral contraceptives
  • Steroids, including prednisone
  • Breathing medicines
  • Diet pills
  • Attention-deficit /hyperactivity disorder medicines
  • Some antidepressants
  • Medicines with pseudoephedrine
  • Medicines with caffeine

Sometimes, medicines people take to help fall asleep can cause problems. Your body can get used to them, and they may not help anymore. Or you may not be able to sleep without them anymore.

Amy Smith, 44, found out what medicines can do to sleep the hard way. Given Percocet®, a strong painkiller for broken bones and back pain, Smith built a tolerance and needed more to find relief. To combat poor sleep caused by this drug, she took Ambien® and Valium. Smith got hooked on Ambien® and thinks it caused more insomnia. Today, she has reduced her dose and is working hard to not take it at all. With great effort, she also stopped taking Percocet®. She feels better than ever now and credits these healthy habits:

  • A strict sleep schedule
  • Exercise in the morning
  • No late-night eating
  • No TV in bed

If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about all of the medicines you take to see if one or more are to blame.

Alcohol, smoking, caffeine and illegal drugs

Certain lifestyle choices greatly affect sleep. Too much caffeine can keep you awake. This is especially true for caffeine intake late in the day. Nicotine is also a stimulant that can reduce sleep hours. And although alcohol can make you drowsy at first, it can disrupt sleep later on. Among other dangers, illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, can greatly harm sleep.

Sleep disorders

For some people, sleep problems are caused by a sleep disorder. If you have daytime fatigue or can’t fall or stay asleep, tell your doctor. You may need to see a sleep specialist. You may also need to have a sleep study called a polysomnography. This test looks at many things to help find out if you have a sleep disorder, including brain activity and heart rate. If you have one, your doctor can help you get the sleep you need.

Take charge of your sleep

Although you can’t control everything, these tips can help you get past sleep obstacles. They can also help prevent longer term sleep problems. And protecting your sleep means protecting your health!

Resources
 
National Sleep Foundation
www.sleepfoundation.org

American Academy of Sleep Medicine
www.yoursleep.aasmnet.org

By Sarah Stone
Source: National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000805.htm; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20046556; National Sleep Foundation, http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/partners-and-sleep; Cleveland Clinic, http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/neurological_institute/sleep-disorders-center/disorders-conditions/hic-drug-and-alcohol-related-sleep-disorders; Ramar, M.D. Kannan and Olson, M.D., Eric. J. (2013) "Management of Common Sleep Disorders." American Family Physician, Volume 88(4);231-238.
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Life changes, such as having a baby, can rob people of much needed sleep.
  • Certain lifestyle habits can get in the way of sleep.
  • There are steps you can take to overcome sleep obstacles.

Adults in the United States get less sleep than experts recommend. In the short term, moods worsen and accidents are more likely. In the long term, adults face a bigger risk of many health problems. Infections, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are linked to sleep loss over time.

Sometimes, sleep disorders are to blame for poor or little sleep. Other times, lifestyle choices or life events disrupt sleep. But although there may be hurdles to good sleep, there are ways to get past them.

A new baby

Having a new baby at home can be tiring. While parents focus on the baby’s sleep, sleep for parents can take a backseat. Yet there are ways to cope during those early days:

  • Share tasks at night. If mom is breastfeeding, she can pump milk so that dad can take on a nighttime feeding. If you are using a bottle, take turns feeding.
  • Sleep when baby sleeps. Resist the urge to use this time to catch up on chores.
  • Ask for help. When people visit, ask if they can watch the baby while you rest.
  • Use a bassinet or crib. When you are ready to sleep, put the baby in a crib or next to you in a bassinet rather than in the bed with you. This way, you won't need to worry about your baby’s safety.
  • Try to watch and wait. Your baby’s cries may mean he or she is settling down. Wait to see if the cries continue as a sign of hunger or discomfort before getting out of bed.

Noisy bed partners

Sometimes the biggest sleep disruption comes from the person next to you. If you or your bed partner snores, try these tips for quieter rest:

  • If the snoring partner is a back sleeper, nudge him or her to roll to the side.
  • Skip alcohol and late night meals. Both make snoring worse.
  • Think about seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist.
  • Wear earplugs or use a white noise machine to drown out sounds.

If you or your partner has to leave the room because of snoring or kicking during the night, it is time to see a doctor.

Medicines and herbs

Medicines and herbs may be designed to help us, but some can disrupt sleep. This includes some you buy on your own and some that are given to you by a doctor, including:

  • High blood pressure medicines
  • Hormones such as oral contraceptives
  • Steroids, including prednisone
  • Breathing medicines
  • Diet pills
  • Attention-deficit /hyperactivity disorder medicines
  • Some antidepressants
  • Medicines with pseudoephedrine
  • Medicines with caffeine

Sometimes, medicines people take to help fall asleep can cause problems. Your body can get used to them, and they may not help anymore. Or you may not be able to sleep without them anymore.

Amy Smith, 44, found out what medicines can do to sleep the hard way. Given Percocet®, a strong painkiller for broken bones and back pain, Smith built a tolerance and needed more to find relief. To combat poor sleep caused by this drug, she took Ambien® and Valium. Smith got hooked on Ambien® and thinks it caused more insomnia. Today, she has reduced her dose and is working hard to not take it at all. With great effort, she also stopped taking Percocet®. She feels better than ever now and credits these healthy habits:

  • A strict sleep schedule
  • Exercise in the morning
  • No late-night eating
  • No TV in bed

If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about all of the medicines you take to see if one or more are to blame.

Alcohol, smoking, caffeine and illegal drugs

Certain lifestyle choices greatly affect sleep. Too much caffeine can keep you awake. This is especially true for caffeine intake late in the day. Nicotine is also a stimulant that can reduce sleep hours. And although alcohol can make you drowsy at first, it can disrupt sleep later on. Among other dangers, illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, can greatly harm sleep.

Sleep disorders

For some people, sleep problems are caused by a sleep disorder. If you have daytime fatigue or can’t fall or stay asleep, tell your doctor. You may need to see a sleep specialist. You may also need to have a sleep study called a polysomnography. This test looks at many things to help find out if you have a sleep disorder, including brain activity and heart rate. If you have one, your doctor can help you get the sleep you need.

Take charge of your sleep

Although you can’t control everything, these tips can help you get past sleep obstacles. They can also help prevent longer term sleep problems. And protecting your sleep means protecting your health!

Resources
 
National Sleep Foundation
www.sleepfoundation.org

American Academy of Sleep Medicine
www.yoursleep.aasmnet.org

By Sarah Stone
Source: National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000805.htm; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20046556; National Sleep Foundation, http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/partners-and-sleep; Cleveland Clinic, http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/neurological_institute/sleep-disorders-center/disorders-conditions/hic-drug-and-alcohol-related-sleep-disorders; Ramar, M.D. Kannan and Olson, M.D., Eric. J. (2013) "Management of Common Sleep Disorders." American Family Physician, Volume 88(4);231-238.
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Life changes, such as having a baby, can rob people of much needed sleep.
  • Certain lifestyle habits can get in the way of sleep.
  • There are steps you can take to overcome sleep obstacles.

Adults in the United States get less sleep than experts recommend. In the short term, moods worsen and accidents are more likely. In the long term, adults face a bigger risk of many health problems. Infections, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are linked to sleep loss over time.

Sometimes, sleep disorders are to blame for poor or little sleep. Other times, lifestyle choices or life events disrupt sleep. But although there may be hurdles to good sleep, there are ways to get past them.

A new baby

Having a new baby at home can be tiring. While parents focus on the baby’s sleep, sleep for parents can take a backseat. Yet there are ways to cope during those early days:

  • Share tasks at night. If mom is breastfeeding, she can pump milk so that dad can take on a nighttime feeding. If you are using a bottle, take turns feeding.
  • Sleep when baby sleeps. Resist the urge to use this time to catch up on chores.
  • Ask for help. When people visit, ask if they can watch the baby while you rest.
  • Use a bassinet or crib. When you are ready to sleep, put the baby in a crib or next to you in a bassinet rather than in the bed with you. This way, you won't need to worry about your baby’s safety.
  • Try to watch and wait. Your baby’s cries may mean he or she is settling down. Wait to see if the cries continue as a sign of hunger or discomfort before getting out of bed.

Noisy bed partners

Sometimes the biggest sleep disruption comes from the person next to you. If you or your bed partner snores, try these tips for quieter rest:

  • If the snoring partner is a back sleeper, nudge him or her to roll to the side.
  • Skip alcohol and late night meals. Both make snoring worse.
  • Think about seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist.
  • Wear earplugs or use a white noise machine to drown out sounds.

If you or your partner has to leave the room because of snoring or kicking during the night, it is time to see a doctor.

Medicines and herbs

Medicines and herbs may be designed to help us, but some can disrupt sleep. This includes some you buy on your own and some that are given to you by a doctor, including:

  • High blood pressure medicines
  • Hormones such as oral contraceptives
  • Steroids, including prednisone
  • Breathing medicines
  • Diet pills
  • Attention-deficit /hyperactivity disorder medicines
  • Some antidepressants
  • Medicines with pseudoephedrine
  • Medicines with caffeine

Sometimes, medicines people take to help fall asleep can cause problems. Your body can get used to them, and they may not help anymore. Or you may not be able to sleep without them anymore.

Amy Smith, 44, found out what medicines can do to sleep the hard way. Given Percocet®, a strong painkiller for broken bones and back pain, Smith built a tolerance and needed more to find relief. To combat poor sleep caused by this drug, she took Ambien® and Valium. Smith got hooked on Ambien® and thinks it caused more insomnia. Today, she has reduced her dose and is working hard to not take it at all. With great effort, she also stopped taking Percocet®. She feels better than ever now and credits these healthy habits:

  • A strict sleep schedule
  • Exercise in the morning
  • No late-night eating
  • No TV in bed

If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about all of the medicines you take to see if one or more are to blame.

Alcohol, smoking, caffeine and illegal drugs

Certain lifestyle choices greatly affect sleep. Too much caffeine can keep you awake. This is especially true for caffeine intake late in the day. Nicotine is also a stimulant that can reduce sleep hours. And although alcohol can make you drowsy at first, it can disrupt sleep later on. Among other dangers, illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, can greatly harm sleep.

Sleep disorders

For some people, sleep problems are caused by a sleep disorder. If you have daytime fatigue or can’t fall or stay asleep, tell your doctor. You may need to see a sleep specialist. You may also need to have a sleep study called a polysomnography. This test looks at many things to help find out if you have a sleep disorder, including brain activity and heart rate. If you have one, your doctor can help you get the sleep you need.

Take charge of your sleep

Although you can’t control everything, these tips can help you get past sleep obstacles. They can also help prevent longer term sleep problems. And protecting your sleep means protecting your health!

Resources
 
National Sleep Foundation
www.sleepfoundation.org

American Academy of Sleep Medicine
www.yoursleep.aasmnet.org

By Sarah Stone
Source: National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000805.htm; Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20046556; National Sleep Foundation, http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/partners-and-sleep; Cleveland Clinic, http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/neurological_institute/sleep-disorders-center/disorders-conditions/hic-drug-and-alcohol-related-sleep-disorders; Ramar, M.D. Kannan and Olson, M.D., Eric. J. (2013) "Management of Common Sleep Disorders." American Family Physician, Volume 88(4);231-238.
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Beacon Health Options

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