Vitamin Z: The Latest on Sleeping Well


By Hannah Woit

How well did you sleep last night? The amount and quality of your sleep can be both an important marker of your overall health and a significant determinant of it. What makes for good shuteye? If you’re not sure how your sleep stacks up, Arianna Huffington has a questionnaire on her website to give you an idea of how you’re doing and what to look out for.

Many people experience acute insomnia, which is not frequent or long-lasting and often circumstantial, caused by stressful things going on in their lives and usually doesn’t require formal treatment.

Chronic insomnia is more frequent and persistent than acute insomnia. Its severity is largely defined based on how long it lasts and how often: If it happens at least three nights per week for at least three months, it is chronic.

The causes of chronic insomnia include:

  • Changes in your surroundings or circumstances

  • Poor sleep habits

  • Doing shift work

  • Other medical issues

  • Certain medications

So what to do?

There’s a lot of information out there about how to get the best z’s. What has been proven and what is merely a theory?

Here are a few things that might help you lull yourself to better sleep, according to science:

Acupuncture has been shown to reduce insomnia in cancer survivors, both in the short and longer term, with few side effects.

You’ve probably heard exercise mentioned as being conducive to sleep, but studies show that there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re exercising to help yourself sleep:

  • It’s exercise that is best when it comes to cultivating a healthy sleep schedule--not just any kind of activity that wears you out. One study found that women who consistently get recreational physical activity (rather than lifestyle or household-related activity) on average get better sleep than those who don’t.

  • You may have also heard that what time of day you exercise matters for sleep. A National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll showed that exercising at a moderate or high level less than four hours before going to bed generally doesn’t discourage sleep. However, those who exercise vigorously in the morning (more than 8 hours before bedtime) get the best sleep overall, and also are more likely to say they get good quality sleep and wake up refreshed.

For serious insomnia, one treatment that has been rigorously tested is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, defined by Psychology Today as “a form of psychotherapy that treats problems and boosts happiness by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts”. It can be more effective than acupuncture and sleeping pills, research says.

Whatever the cause of your sleeplessness, it may take several tries to find the best combination of strategies that works for you. It’s worth persisting considering how important shuteye is for your overall health and wellbeing!

Sleep well, be well!

Hannah Woit