Monday, June 6, 2011

An apple a day: Insight into insomnia

*This year I started writing a health column. :)*

Many nights I lie awake in my bed, staring up at my popcorn ceiling, just waiting to fall asleep. Sometimes I am thinking about everything that I have to do tomorrow or of absolutely nothing at all. I lie awake into the silent hours of the night sometimes until 2:00 in the morning. That means that, having to wake up at 5:00 am, I have only gotten three hours of sleep and I still need to endure eight hours of school.
Let’s just say, insomnia is not very fun. Coming out of lazy summer days full of sleep until noon and nap-time at 1:00, students are still trying to get into the habit of waking up at the crack of dawn and going through an eight-hour school day without falling asleep during a lecture.
But whether it is from stress or just not being able to fall asleep, the hours that go into lying awake are crucial to a student. According to, between 10 and 20% of Americans suffer from insomnia, and about 56% of Americans have had symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights per week or more. Research has shown that teenagers may make up a large part of that percentage, with all of our homework, activities, and especially essays for colleges and scholarships – who has time to sleep? According to WebMD (, teenagers need to get at least 8 ½ hours of sleep; here are some common tips from WebMD that could help those of us get to sleep faster so we can stop staring at the popcorn ceiling.
Clear your mind before bed: Stress about the test in physics or that ACT you’ll have to take on Saturday, can affect your sleep habits. Take some time before bed to unwind. Read a book, listen to some music or even watch TV; the time can be as short as ten minutes but can help you fall asleep and sleep more deeply.
Log off of Facebook: Distractions such as TV or your cell phone by the side of your bed can provide distractions that keep you awake for hours on end. Turning off your cell phone, logging off of the computer and turning off the Late Show will create a quiet and soothing atmosphere that will help you fall asleep faster.
Make Spot sleep in his own bed: Pets can be another distraction that keeps you awake at night. Even after you’ve fallen asleep, Fluffy’s movements or Fido’s begging to be let out can keep you awake for hours and cause you to have problems falling asleep again.
Create your ideal environment: Whether you use earplugs, a fan or a special pillow, creating the ideal sleeping conditions for you personally will be more comfortable for you and you will fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply.
Napping can affect more than your grades: When you nap during the day (sleeping in class counts), you use up some of the sleepiness that would make you sleep more deeply at night. If you do feel the need to nap, keep it to 15-20 minutes maximum when you get home from school (this can actually rejuvenate you and could help you stay awake to do homework or study).
Order a Tall coffee instead of a Venti: Caffeine can stay in your body longer than you want it to – the effects can go as long as eight hours before wearing out – and can keep going into the night when you should be sleeping. A small cup of coffee before first period is okay, but if you cut out caffeine at least four to six hours before bedtime, you will fall asleep easier.
Go on a run and eat your veggies: Regular exercise can wear you down, which will help you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply throughout the night. If you exercise in the morning the cardio can energize you for the rest of the day as well. Try not to go to bed hungry and avoid large meals before bed; being hungry or too full can keep you awake throughout the night. If you eat just before bed, try dairy products, fruit or nuts – these all promote sleep within the body.

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