ZocdocAnswersWhy do I have trouble falling asleep at night?

Question

Why do I have trouble falling asleep at night?

I'm a 24 year old graduate student, with a prescription to Dexedrine 15mg (that I rarely take), who has trouble falling asleep some nights. The first thing I assumed was that it was the medicine causing the problems, but after abstaining from it for a week -- I'm noticing that the issue is still present. My mind just seems to race with thoughts in the evening hours and I find myself wanting to indulge in electronic distractions and create "to-do" lists. It's as though I can't seem to get myself to mentally wind down. What would be the best course of action for me to take at this point?

Answer

This is an unfortunate problem that you share with many Americans. The fact that you are taking Dexedrine might be adding to your problem, but I agree that there is likely something else that is adding to your insomnia, especially since you did a one week trial and didn't notice any improvement. In general, the best place to start when treating insomnia is with improving your sleep hygiene. This can be done with simple steps, such as exercising at least 4 hours before going to sleep (but do exercise, as this can help you sleep), avoiding caffeine, not going to bed hungry, making your room as comfortable as possible, etc. Once these steps have been done, then it becomes important to make sure that your sleep cycle isn't being compromised by sleeping in late to compensate for falling asleep so late in the night. This extra sleep in the morning only makes it harder to fall asleep the next evening, and creates a negative sleep cycle. Finally, if you are unable to sleep for 20 minutes after going to bed, try getting up and doing something relaxing, like reading. Don't make lists, do homework, eat, or watch TV, as these all "reward" you for staying awake. Finally, if your problems persist, please speak to your primary care doctor or a sleep specialist.

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