It’s 3 a.m. and you’re desperately willing your body to sleep. But why won’t sleep come?
A bout of insomnia could be multi-tasking catching up with you, says Indra Narang, MD, director of sleep medicine at Toronto’s The Hospital for Sick Children. “Parents have to balance many responsibilities, and some people are overwhelmed by that and go to bed thinking about their to-do lists and so forth,” says Dr. Narang. “And then physiologically, they’re in a hyper-aroused state.” She also notes that women and anxious people are more vulnerable to bouts of insomnia.
Disturbances from illness (asthma, croup) in a child can also temporarily disrupt parents’ sleep, making it tough to drift back off, says Patricia Mousmanis, MD, a Toronto-based family physician.
“Ongoing persistent insomnia in parents, which can include difficulty falling asleep, early morning waking or waking frequently during the night with trouble returning to sleep, could be symptomatic of a larger medical illness,” she adds.
A problem with sleeping lasting two weeks or more that does not respond to simple sleep hygiene strategies might be an early symptom of a potentially serious mental health issue such as anxiety or depression.
What to Do
You may not be the only insomniac in the house—studies indicate that between 15 and 30 percent of children have insomnia as well, which could be triggered by factors such as noisy devices (cellphones) in their bedrooms keeping them awake. Or, like adults, anxiety can also generate insomnia in older children. If you do have insomnia, try these tips to combat it:
Don’t Nap. Napping may further exacerbate nighttime insomnia.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to your sleep conditions. Make your room a quiet (electronic device–free) zone.
Avoid Stimulants. Cut down on caffeine consumption in the day and evening. It can affect sleep quality.
Sleep Consistent Hours. No sleeping in three hours past your usual wake-up time on weekends. This throws off your sleep body clock.
Make a to-do List. Ease anxiety about all you have to accomplish tomorrow by making a list before bed so it is not constantly on your mind.
Still suffering? A visit to your physician can help determine if there are any larger medical concerns.