Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects 35% of adults alone. It can be caused by other health problems, such as waking up to urinate either during pregnancy or with disorders of the prostate. Maybe you have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or maybe you cannot sleep as long as you would like. Poor sleep can have serious effects including excessive daytime sleepiness giving way to an increased risk of auto accidents.

Your body has a schedule known as the circadian rhythm that follows the sun and stars. Your daily routine can cause sleep problems, such as working nights and trying to stay up on your days off. Nurses are known for this with their 12 hours shifts. Unhealthy lifestyle and diet increase your risk as well as medical problems.

The first thing everyone should do is keep good sleep hygiene. Here are the habits of good sleep hygiene:

  • No daytime napping, napping can throw of your sleep timing making it hard to fall asleep at night.
  • Try not to eat 2 hours before bed and if you experience heart burn you should also avoid spicy foods.
  • No electronic devices 2-3 hours before bedtime, and no electronic devices in bed (this goes for adults and children)
  • Bed is for sleeping and Intimate Health, do not read or watch TV in bed.
  • If you go to bed and you are still awake in 30 minutes, get up and do something for a short period of time (10 minutes), then go back to bed…but no electronics or screen time
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants before bed. Caffeine can stay in your system for hours.

There are so many things that can affect your sleep. Pain, anxiety, depression, stress, or a bad mattress. Be sure to have a regular annual checkup. At your annual checkup you are tested for diabetes which can affect your sleep. Have your provider go over your medications as drugs can affect your sleep as well.

Studies have shown that there are negative effects to taking over-the-counter (OTC) sleep medications such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), valerian, and doxylamine (Unisom) for an extended period of time. They are only recommended for short term and can have drug interactions.

Melatonin is a natural hormone release in the body by the pineal gland to make you feel tired and relaxed for sleep. This release occurs as the light starts to fade. Melatonin is OTC but it too but it causes drowsiness. Of note, the oral melatonin that you swallow does not work because melatonin is filtered out of the digestive tract by the liver.  If you wish to try melatonin you will need to get the oral dissolvable tablets. Start with a small dose 1-3 mg and work your way up, never go over 10 mg. If it isn’t working, you need an appointment.

I recommend visiting the Sleep Foundation at to see if you should or call and schedule an appointment today.

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Sharon Zell NP