Opinion: Ugh, I can’t fall asleep



Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer is a senior integrated life sciences major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

As I sat in class Monday, a friend sitting next to me looked as if she was about to pass out. Turns out she couldn’t sleep. She was suffering from insomnia.

The Mayo Clinic defines insomnia as “not getting enough sleep for normal daily function, despite having had adequate opportunity for sleep.”

Just as the definition sounds, insomnia is frustrating and can be caused and improved by a variety of things.

Stress and anxiety. With a lot on your mind, it makes it difficult to settle down. Taking time to relax before bed may just help ease the mind. Yoga, stretching, breathing exercises, music, reading or anything else that gets your mind off the toil and trouble of the day can help you sleep.

Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol may help you get to sleep, but alcohol prevents you from reaching deep sleep. In this way, you might be easily woken up or may not feel rested after sleeping. Alcohol should not be used as a sedative because of this.

Caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Stimulants tend to keep you awake and keep your central nervous system active. Don’t drink caffeinated drinks or smoke late into the evening, if you want a restful night of sleep.

Too much blue light from technology and television. As I mentioned in a previous column, blue light is most present outside during midday and subsides as the evening approaches. Accordingly, your natural circadian rhythm is in tune with the changing light in your surroundings.

Because we are not nocturnal, this normally means with less light, we want to go to sleep. Conversely, not spending any time in the sun during daylight hours may also keep you awake at night. Thus, download a program such as f.lux to modulate the blue light on your computer screen. Also, turn down the lights an hour before you plan to sleep.

Naps. Naps may be your best friend or enemy regarding insomnia depending on a few things. First, naps can be a natural part of your sleep cycle and in many parts of the world, the midday nap, or siesta, is a normal part of the culture. Second, in order to incorporate a long nap, say 90 minutes, into your day it should be done so consistently. Third, short power naps of 20 minutes can help you feel more energized and can be more sporadically added into your schedule. Finally, in addition to naps, splitting nighttime sleeping into two halves may be natural to some people, and if you wake up in the middle of the night, it may be perfectly OK for you to get a few things done before returning to bed.

Insomnia is something all of us have or probably will deal with sometime in our life. In order to combat it, we must examine our lives in order to understand if they are conducive to sleep. Accordingly, we may need to change our habits to get the sleep we all desperately need.