Insomnia & Sleep

The anatomy of sleep
Sleep stageCharacteristics
Stage 1 (non-REM)
  • 5 to 10 percent of sleep time
  • Eyes are closed
  • Stage may last five to ten minutes
  • If awoken, might not feel as if you’ve slept
  • May not be aware you’ve started to fall asleep
Stage 2 (non-REM)
  • 45 to 55 percent of sleep time
  • Light sleep
  • Muscles spontaneously tense and relax
  • Heart rate slows
  • Body temperature decreases
  • Sleep aids lengthen this stage but lessen stage 3
Stages 3 and 4 (non-REM)
  • 10 to 20 percent of sleep time
  • Length of stage 3 decreases with age
  • Delta waves
  • Stage 3 sleep is more common earlier in the evening and declines later in the night
  • If awoken, might feel disoriented
REM sleep
  • 18 to 23 percent of sleep time
  • Rapid eye movement occurs
  • Begins after 90 minutes of sleep
  • Brainwave patterns similar to wakefulness but no movement
  • Function of REM is still unclear

The effects of poor sleep

It’s not uncommon to have a poor night’s sleep from time to time, but what happens when this is a chronic problem? Lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep is linked to many health challenges, including:

  • Poor performance at work and school
  • Anxiety/worry about sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty acquiring/retaining new information
  • Poor recall of existing information/memories in the brain
  • Decreased immune functioning
  • Depression

Insomnia treatment and prevention

Luckily, there are some simple changes that can decrease the likelihood of insomnia and increase your ability to get a good night’s sleep. You can check with a medical provider about sleep aid options, but for many people, simple lifestyle changes are enough.

Most insomnia can be treated (and prevented from recurrence) by paying attention to good sleep habits.

Stimulus control therapy may be useful in treating nonchronic insomnia:

  • Go to bed only when sleepy.
  • Do not watch television, read, eat, or worry while in bed. Use bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Get out of bed and go to another room if unable to fall asleep within twenty minutes. Return to bed only when sleepy. Repeat this step as many times as necessary throughout the night.
  • Set an alarm clock to wake up at a fixed time each morning including weekends.
  • Do not take a nap during the day.

Relaxation therapy, cognitive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy can also be used to treat insomnia. You’ll achieve the best results through counseling with a trained therapist.

While a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications claim to be useful in treating insomnia, the potential benefits of pharmacologic therapy on sleep quality and daytime function are balanced against the risk of side effects as well as physical and psychological dependence with long-term use. If medication is found to be necessary, it is important to appropriately match an appropriate sleep aid drug with particular type of insomnia. Additionally, underlying medical conditions and/or routine prescription and over the counter medications must be taken into consideration. Essentially all sleep aid medications have potential side effects and potential for drug interactions. For these reasons, it is recommended that you discuss medications with a medical professional prior to use.

When to seek help

If your insomnia continues or worsens in spite of use of self-care measures for five to seven days, consider making an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 812-855-5711, or make an appointment with the Student Health Center’s medical clinic for further evaluation and treatment.

Facts about caffeine

4 to 7number of hours caffeine can stay in your body

4+servings of caffeine can cause insomnia, nervousness, and irritability

4 to 8ounces of coffee is equivalent to a serving of caffeine

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