Heartburn. If you experience a burning sensation in your chest two or more times a week, see your doctor. You might have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which can inflame the lining of the esophagus and awaken you at night with heartburn, indigestion, coughing or choking. Minimize symptoms by eating small meals, not lying down for three hours after eating, avoiding fatty, spicy or acidic food, not smoking and losing excess weight.
(istock) - For people with sleep problems, pills are not the only treatment worth considering.
Osteoarthritis. Cognitive-behavioral therapy improved both insomnia and arthritis pain in older patients in a 2009 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. And gentle yoga practiced about an hour before bedtime relieved sleep disturbance in women with osteoarthritis in a 2011 pilot study in the journal Sleep Medicine. Most important, lose extra weight and try to exercise regularly to reduce arthritis pain.
Nocturnal leg cramps. These painful muscle contractions, often in the calf and sometimes in the thighs or feet, commonly awaken older people. You might find relief by pulling the top of your foot toward your shin while extending your knee, massaging the affected leg or walking.
Hot flashes. More than half of menopausal women report chronic insomnia, primarily because of hot flashes that interrupt sleep and leave them drenched in sweat and shivering. To ease night sweats, lower the bedroom thermostat or use a fan; sleep on cotton sheets and wear cotton nightclothes; take a cool shower before bed; keep ice water at your bedside; and place a frozen ice pack under your pillow, turning the pillow often.
Emotional distress. Treatment for anxiety and depression generally involves psychotherapy aimed at changing thoughts and behavior that feed the problem, often paired with newer antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac and its generic cousins) and sertraline (Zoloft, for example). If those pills worsen your insomnia, ask your doctor about switching the timing or the drug. Regular exercise can help ease both anxiety and depression.
Copyright 2012. Consumers Union of United States Inc.