Sleepless in Columbia

Or… What to do When You Have Trouble Sleeping?

Tick, tock, tick, tock….the clock on the wall says 3:30 a.m.. . . 4:30 a.m. . . . can it really be 5:30?And you still can’t get back to sleep. You’ve counted sheep, counted to 100 in French, Spanish and Mandarin, done the alphabet game with girls’ names, boys’ names and fruits and vegetables. But after reciting all the way from artichokes to zucchini, you’re still wide awake!!

There’s a video in your head that keeps looping from the beginning, over and over. You try to turn it off, but the “to do” list is there in red lights, along with a litany of worries and concerns that, in the light of day, will be rendered unimportant if not ridiculous.

Now you’re getting panicky. Only one hour until the alarm will go offfzzzzzzzzzzz.  Beep, beep beep…wake-up call! Just as you fall into a comatose state and get involved in an intricate dream, it’s time to get up and face the day.

Sound familiar? Insomnia and sleep disorders can range from mild, causing only minor problems once or twice a week to a chronic severe condition that affects your life style and ability to function at 100 percent. Some sleep disorders, such as apnea – a disruption of breathing during sleep – can even be fatal. Other common sleep problems are restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy – sleep attacks that can occur at any time. Untreated, these disorders can result in high blood pressure, strokes, heart disease, and car and industrial accidents due to drowsiness.

There are a number of symptoms that should send up a red flag that your problems with sleep may be causing more serious health issues. If your sleep partner is constantly giving you the elbow to make you stop snoring or stop gasping for breath, you may have sleep apnea. If you often feel like you’re falling asleep at the wheel or at your desk, you’re not getting enough sleep. Morning headaches, high blood pressure and weight gain are also signs of poor sleep that may need attention.

The causes for sleeplessness range from stress, pain, overstimulation and certain medications, but regardless of the cause, The National Sleep Foundation suggests several things you can do to get a better night’s sleep:

At night:

  • Use the bedroom for sleep (and romance) only
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine and a regular sleep-wake schedule
  • Do not eat or drink too much close to bedtime
  • Create a sleep-promoting environment that is dark, cool and comfortable
  • Avoid disturbing noises – consider a bedside fan or white-noise machine to block out disturbing sounds

During the day:

  • Consume less or no caffeine, particularly late in the day
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine, especially close to bedtime
  • Exercise, but not within three hours before bedtime
  • Avoid naps, particularly in the late afternoon or evening
  • Keep a sleep diary to identify your sleep habits and patterns that you can share with your doctor

If you’re still struggling with sleep after a month or so, you may want to seek professional advice. There are many resources available that can help make you sleep like a baby again – or better yet, like the dog or cat snoring blissfully at your feet.


We want to hear from you…   what do YOU do when you are sleepless in Howard County?


When not wearing her Marking and Communications project manager hat, find Diane painting in her home studio, trying new recipes in the kitchen or walking with her husband and two Jack Russels, Lily and Lucy – who both sleep very well indeed.

1 Comment

  1. MaryCat

    Diane- I try to remember all of the details of my early education- grade by grade, teacher by teacher, playground detail by playground detail. I also drink a cup of tea at night with reported powers to help you sleep. (I have a friend that drinks a glass of red wine and swears by it!)

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