What can I do to help me fall asleep?

I wake up at 12:30a.m and 4:30a.m every night. If I take a sleeping pill, I might get back to sleep at 12:30, but if not I will be awake the whole night. Otherwise, I will get to sleep at 12:30, but will wake at 4:30, and then be up the rest of the night. I go to bed at 10:00p.m. I read for an hour before, and I don't nap during the day. I have a busy day, teaching preschool, so I do not sit down much. I will have the occasional night sweat which will also wake me up. I will start to fall asleep watching T.V at around 8:00p.m, but resist, so I can sleep at night. I wear ear plugs, a sleep mask, and do not do any work or do any activity after 7:00p.m. I have 1 cup of coffee at 7 a.m, and do not drink alcohol in the evenings. I am 53 years old, and work with 75 preschoolers a week. Help!

Doctors Answers (2)

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 7/20/2012

You sound like you have a full and at times stressful life. Try and unwind before bed without reading or watching TV an hour of so before bed. Cut out caffeine completely and substitute non caffeinated beverages instead. If after 30 minutes you can't sleep go to another low lit room and read something nonstimulation until your eyes are heavy and you can reengage sleep. Try showering for 20 minutes with hot water and taking melatonin before bed to help initiate sleep. Try and exercise either in AM or afternoon at least 3 yours before bed to help reduce stress and consolidate sleep. If none of this works to your saisfaction then consult a sleep specialist for further recommendations.

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 7/19/2012

What you can do to help you fall asleep does not appear to be your major issue. Your problem is two fold: one is staying asleep and two is getting quality sleep. 5 hours of quality sleep is better than 10 hours of "bad" sleep. Good or quality sleep means getting normal sleep stages which are restorative and lead to the next day full of energy and well being. Bad sleep, which may go on for hours, is usually associated with a reduction in restorative sleep stages and often with frequent microarousals (not awakenings) You need to see a sleep specialist who can work with you probably using medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. Actigraphy may also be helpful to more fully assess your sleep schedule. A complete review of your medications is essential as many so called sleep aides (especially over the counter medication actually affects sleep staging adversely).