Ask SleepBetter: How Do I Stay Asleep?

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer? Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter. You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form. We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues. Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is from a Facebook friend who sleeps well, but not for long:

“I don’t have a problem getting to sleep. I have a problem staying asleep. Max is 3-4 hours. Any help?”
-Christina (via Facebook)

When most people think of insomnia, they think of the inability to fall asleep, but the term also includes the inability to stay asleep.  As always, the first and most important thing we recommend for insomnia is that you do is visit your doctor.  There are physical issues that can cause you to wake frequently, and those should be ruled out as soon as possible.  Underlying medical issues could include chronic pain, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea.  Insomnia can also be linked to mental health disorders, particularly depression

If underlying medical issues have been ruled out, it’s best to look at your sleep environment.  There are a number of things that could cause you to wake up multiple times in the middle of the night.  Here is a list, along with suggested solutions for the problems:

  • Outside noise: A white noise machine by your bedside can help mask outside noise
  • Inside noise: See above
  • Uncomfortable bedding, like pillows and your mattress: Pillows should be replaced every 18 months, while many of the issues caused by older mattresses can be fixed with a high quality mattress topper.  For recommendations, click here.
  • A noisy or restless bed partner: Not all couples are compatible sleepers. Separate beds may be the answer.
  • Household pets: As much as you love fluffy or fido, if they’re keeping you from sleeping, it may be best to ban them from your bedroom.

Other possibilities include food and alcohol.  Eating too much before bed can make you restless while you sleep.  Alcohol, meanwhile, may seem to make you sleepy, but when it wears off can leave you wide awake.