There are those who can lay their head on a pillow, shut their eyes, and be immediately whisked away to dreamland. But then there are others, including celebs like Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, and Amy Poehler, who’ve opened up about their bouts of insomnia, making sleep a difficult thing to grasp.
Recently Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and sleep expert in Los Angeles, revealed to US Magazine that the anonymous celeb clients he treats for insomnia might suffer from it for different reasons (early morning shoots, for example), however, most remedies will work across the board, including celebrities and the rest of us.
Suffering from insomnia, and need help catching some solid Zs? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Insomnia?
Having one rough night of little sleep is one thing, however, having insomnia is quite another. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia is when a person has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when you have the chance to do so. As a result, you may experience fatigue, low energy, moodiness, and your work performance might suffer.
Acute insomnia is temporary, and is often the result of something stressful or triggering, including coming on after receiving bad news or the night before you have to give a presentation at work.
Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, occurs at least three times a week and has lasted for three months or longer.
It’s estimated that 40 million Americans suffer from insomnia, with most of them being women or older adults. The U.S. Office on Women’s Health reports that one in four women have insomnia symptoms.
When it comes to why more women suffer from insomnia than men, we can blame it on our hormones. According to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, a woman’s menstrual cycle, as well as menopause and periomenopause, can disturb sleep. Even pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester, can cause insomnia symptoms.
Other factors include depression and anxiety, which women are more prone to experience than men.
How to Treat It
There are a variety of methods to help treat insomnia, with some being more effective for others. It’s really about finding the ones that work best for you.
Dr. Breus recommends working up a sweat. “The single best way to improve the quality of your sleep is with exercise. I’m not talking about running a marathon. I’m talking about 20-minutes of cardio of day,” he told US Magazine.
No wonder Michelle Obama has said that, for her, “exercise is more than physical — it’s therapeutic.”
Dr. Breus added that you don’t want to work out too close to bedtime either as it will raise your body temperature, making it difficult for you to fall back asleep.
Keeping your smartphone away from your bed is another good idea. A 2016 study has shown that looking at your phone prior to bedtime was associated with a longer time to fall asleep and worse sleep quality during the night.
Which is probably why Jennifer Aniston has said that she keeps her phone “at least five feet away from me. That’s helped me tremendously…The biggest thing is the electronics shutdown, ideally an hour before I turn off the lights. It’s really a big deal.”
Keeping a sleep diary is also recommended by sleep experts to help keep track of sleep patterns as well as to write out any racing thoughts that might be preventing you from falling asleep. Kelly Clarkson, who has spoken about her trouble with sleep, has shared she often writes out song lyrics before bed.
And then there’s marijuana. Researchers from the University of New Mexico recently found that cannabis works with treating sleeping disorders, including insomnia. You might want to heed Rachel McAdams’ experience with the drug after she complained of sleeping issues to her local grocer.
“I said I was having a really hard time sleeping and he said, ‘Well, um, I’ve got something for you’ … so he takes me to the back and he pulls out this little bottle with no label. It’s full of this dark green substance and he lifts [the lid] and says, ‘Take a whiff of that.’ And it’s like, well it’s, it’s marijuana … I take the tiniest teaspoon, brush my teeth, and by the time I’m getting into bed, I’m like, My brain, what’s happening? I was not thinking normal, human thoughts. I was hallucinating. I was totally hallucinating and I’m just lying there like cursing him, ‘I can’t believe this is happening!’”
Bottom line: Sleep is essential to optimal health. If you’re suffering from insomnia, it’s always best to speak with your family doctor and/or a sleep expert, so that you can map out which sleeping strategies might work best for you.