If you lie awake for hours, unable to sleep, find yourself waking up repeatedly throughout the night or just feel constantly run down and exhausted, you could be a victim of insomnia. Nearly 40% of Americans report some symptoms of insomnia in a given year.
When it comes to insomnia, it can often be hard to tell whether it's your body that's keeping your mind awake or vice versa. One significant cause of poor sleep quality is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a serious medical condition in which airways collapse during sleep, interrupting breathing and waking people up. But not everyone with OSA realizes they aren't sleeping well; they may simply notice that they feel exhausted most of the time.
OSA can be officially diagnosed during a sleep study called polysomnography, but you can also check these two easy at-home tests to see if you could be at risk.
Test 1: The Choke Test
Women with a neck circumference over 16.5 may be at increased risk of sleep apnea. Using your index fingers and thumbs, try wrapping your hands around your neck (as if you are choking yourself – but don't squeeze!). If your fingers can't touch, you could be at risk.
Test 2: The Snore Test
To do the snore test, tilt your head back, relax the muscles in your throat and breathe in through your mouth. If you make a noise while you're breathing, you could be at increased risk.
If you think you might have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor. You can learn more about this potentially dangerous sleep condition here.
If you have sleep apnea, you'll need professional treatment to improve your symptoms. But if your insomnia is due to other factors, you may be able to make a few changes in your sleep or daily routine to help get more shut-eye. In addition to the tips below, check out these other drug-free alternatives to help insomnia.
No caffeine after 2 p.m. Caffeine can linger in your body up to eight to 10 hours, so it's important to shut off the coffee early in the day.
Minimize alcohol intake. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy initially, but as it wears off it can interrupt your sleep. Limit your intake as much as possible and don't drink within three hours of bed.
Turn out the lights. Even minimal amounts of light from cell phones, laptops or tablets can mess with your body's production of melatonin, which helps you feel sleepy and regulates sleep-wake cycles.
Listen to pink noise. These soothing sounds could significantly improve your sleep. You can hear a sample here.
List your worries. If your mind keeps running around in circles, keeping you from sleep, try writing down a list of your concerns in a notebook you keep by your bed. You can leave your worries there, and rest assured they'll be there when you need them again.