UI Employee Assistance Program

Campus Address
121-50 USB
Mailing Address

121 University Services Building, Suite 50
Iowa City, IA 52242-1911
United States

Sleep Problems Can Cause More Than Just Sleepiness

A lack of quality sleep can contribute to errors and accidents, affect your relationships, overall health, and mental alertness, and make you feel generally disconnected from the world.

If your sleeplessness is caused by something situational, like an upcoming deadline or a common cold, you might not have much trouble getting your sleep back on track. If you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis, this guide to managing common sleep problems and disorders can help you on your way to experiencing healthy, restorative sleep.

How do you tell if your sleepless night is an isolated occurrence or if it is related to a chronic sleep problem or disorder? Start by identifying your symptoms. Daytime behaviors may be signs of sleep deprivation. If you experience any of the following symptoms on a regular basis, your sleeplessness might be part of an ongoing problem or sleep disorder.

Do You …

  • Feel irritable or sleepy during the day?
  • Have difficulty staying awake when sitting still, watching television, or reading?
  • Fall asleep or feel very tired while driving?
  • Have difficulty concentrating?
  • Often get told by others that you look tired?
  • React slowly?
  • Feel more emotional than usual?
  • Feel like taking a nap almost every day?
  • Require caffeinated beverages to keep yourself going?

If so, pay special attention to your sleep habits and daily routine. Keeping a record of your sleep patterns will help you and your doctor find the cause of your sleep problems.

Using a sleep diary compiled by you and your sleep partner can highlight lifestyle factors that contribute to sleep difficulties and help your care provider in understanding how to improve your overall sleep quality. A sleep diary is a record of all your sleep-related information. Assistance with sleep diaries can be obtained by contacting us.

Healthy Sleep Tips

For the most part, sleeping involves a routine, so it makes sense that there are things you can do daily and nightly  improve your sleep quality. Along with consulting your health care provider, you might want to incorporate some of the following tips.

Make Adjustments to Maximize Sleep

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco products during the day, especially in the hours before sleep.
  • Finish eating 2-3 hours before bedtime, avoiding big meals.
  • Exercise regularly. Finish your exercise a few hours before bedtime.
  • Eliminate napping or limit the duration to 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Avoid fatty and spicy foods at the evening meal. They can cause heartburn, which can keep you awake or wake you up too soon. 

Create the Best Possible Sleep Environment

  • Remove electronics like computers and televisions from your room.
  • Keep the room cool, comfortable, quiet, and dark.
  • Use a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Use the bed only for sleep and intimacy.

Prepare for Sleep

  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine: Take a bath, read a book, listen to relaxing music before bed, or try having a cup of chamomile tea.
  • Simple breathing exercises can help. Breathe, using your abdomen not your chest, through your nose for three seconds, then breathe out for three seconds. Practice this for about five to ten minutes in the later evening.
  • Don't watch the clock—it can cause anxiety about sleep.
  • Get out of bed if you can't fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes. Only spend time in bed when you are actually sleeping.
  • Clear your mind—if you experience worries that are hard to shut off, spend some time earlier in the evening writing in a journal.
  • Try using a progressive relaxation CD that is specifically used for helping people fall asleep. CDs are available at no cost through our Employee Assistance Program. An EAP counselor can help you determine the best CD for your situation.

Additional Tips for Better Sleep

Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that can stay in your system for many hours, so avoid sources of caffeine such as coffee, chocolate, cola or energy drinks, and non-herbal teas.

Exercise Regularly

  • Regular exercise is a great way to improve your sleep, but be careful not to do it close to bedtime, as exercise produces stimulants that stop the brain from relaxing quickly.
  • This being the case, exercising in the morning is an excellent way to wake up the body. Going for a run or walk releases stimulants into the body, which can perk you up.
  • Anyone can benefit from exercise. Meet with a Health Coach from UI Wellness to talk over some options that are right for you. Contact UI Wellness at 319-353-2973 for more information.

See Your Doctor if Sleep Problems Continue

If you have trouble falling asleep night after night, wake up too early, experience mid-wakefulness, or if you always feel tired the next day, you may have a sleep disorder. Seek advice from your doctor. The good news is most sleep disorders can be treated successfully.