- and gradually increase the amount of sleep you will get during the night.
- Spend some time "winding down." A person with insomnia needs a "buffer zone," a period of time to allow the activating processes in the brain to wind down to allow the alerting mechanisms to decrease their activity so that the sleep systems can take over. I suggest that you start winding down two hours before bedtime. Stop all work and end phone calls to family and friends, as often they are activating. Watching television is all right in the evening. However, an hour before bed, I recommend reading or listening to music.
- Finally, focus on conditioning yourself for different sleep behavior. Insomnia is painful for people—it can take control of their lives. When someone suffering from insomnia walks into their bedroom, they often feel anxious, uncomfortable and tense, as they know from their experience that they might spend the night tossing and turning. They need to set up a situation so that they like going to their bedroom. The bedroom should be visually pleasing and very comfortable. One should use the bedroom only for sleep, sex, and changing clothes, pleasant activities, and if awake in the night should leave the bed and bedroom and spend "unpleasant" times awake in another room. "Waking" activities such as working on the computer, talking with one's partner, talking on the phone and watching TV should take place out of the bedroom.
What about over-the-counter medications? Do they help?
Over-the-counter medications, in combination with a good behavior program, can be helpful for a few days; but the problem with OTC medications is that they tend to have limited effectiveness over the long term and can have a high incidence of "hangovers." Many people taking OTC medications still feel tired the next day and attribute it to their insomnia, but it can be a lingering effect of the medication. Be wary of OTC medications— use them only as you would aspirin for a headache, only so much for so long.
At what point should I seek professional help?
It's important to recognize that