Sleepless in Denver: Library Resources to Help you Beat Insomnia

If you're one of the approximately 30% of adults who experience some form of insomnia, you know that anxiety about the situation only makes things worse, resulting in a self-perpetuating cycle.  Not getting enough sleep can cause decreased job performance, inability to focus, irritability, and more dire consequences, such as fatal car crashes.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia can be classified in the following ways:

Acute insomnia:  A brief episode of difficulty sleeping, usually caused by a life event or stress.  It often resolves itself.  

Chronic insomnia:  This is a long-term pattern if the person has trouble falling or staying asleep at least three nights per week for three months or longer. 

Comorbid insomnia:  Insomnia caused by, or associated with other conditions, such as anxiety and depression, or conditions that make a person uncomfortable such as arthritis or back pain.  

Onset insomnia:  Difficulty falling asleep when you first go to bed.  

Maintenance insomnia:  This is the inability to stay asleep.  People with this type of insomnia wake up during the night and can't go back to sleep. 

Treatment sometimes involves over-the-counter or prescription drugs, but there are other options.  Most of the following suggestions are from the Health & Wellness Resource Center, one of the many databases available with your library card. 

  • Do you enjoy the feeling of the lead blanket while getting an x-ray at the dentist's?  According to an article in Women's Health, a  few studies show that weighted blankets not only help autistic children relax and sleep, but may be beneficial for fighting insomnia in adults.  Since it's an experiment, and a pricey one, it's a good idea to buy from a bricks and mortar store that allows returns. 

--Try to go to bed only when sleepy and use the bedroom only for sleep.

--Activities such as reading, watching television, or snacking should take place elsewhere.

--Maintaining a comfortable bedroom temperature, reducing noise, and eliminating light may also help.

--If a person is unable to fall asleep, he or she can go into another room and do some quiet activity, such as reading, and return to bed when sleepy.

--Setting an alarm and getting up every morning at the same time, no matter how long a person has slept, may help to establish a regular sleep-wake pattern.

--Naps during the day should be avoided, but if absolutely necessary, a 30-minute nap early in the afternoon may not interfere with sleep at night.

  • In a 2018 article from Psychology Today, "For the Best Sleep, Less Time in Bed Can Be More,"  Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. explains "Sleep Reduction Therapy." This is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in which you figure out how many actual hours of sleep you get, and then go to bed later than usual to match the actual sleep time.  You must get up at the same time every morning.  So, if you're only getting 6 hours of actual sleep and want to get up at 6:00, you'd go to bed at midnight.  Then, once sleep efficiency is increased, you gradually start going to bed earlier and earlier.  This tough-love therapy can leave you feeling like a zombie for the first few weeks, so it may not be suitable if your job involves operating heavy machinery or using sharp knives.
  • Guided Imagery (the use of words and music to evoke positive imaginary scenarios) is often used for pain management, stress and serious illness.  But it can also be used to help you find your serene place and fall asleep.  Although you can get guidance for the technique from professionals, you can also try it on your own using Visualization And Guided Imagery Techniques For Stress Reduction from 
  • Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are simple techniques that calm both the body and the mind, reducing tension and stress, helping some people to fall asleep faster.    

For more ideas to combat insomnia, check out the Health & Wellness Resource Center, which has many videos and full-text resources from magazines, newspapers, reference books, and academic journals on the subject.   

And if nothing helps, you can read some of the library's weather almanacs or coin collecting price guides.  

Written by Lisa on