5 Tips For Battling Altitude Insomnia

Altitude insomnia usually affects travelers visiting places in elevations of more than 2,000 feet. We spoke to Roxanne Valentino, M.D., medical director of the St. Thomas Center for Sleep in Nashville, Tenn., for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think you might have altitude insomnia, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Shellie Braeuner

"This sleep disorder is really a byproduct of altitude sickness," explains Dr. Valentino. "People report waking up feeling breathless or with a headache." These symptoms, which also includes fatigue, come with the changes in altitude and affect the sleeper's comfort.


Altitude insomnia is an uncomfortable but temporary problem. "As your body becomes acclimated to the altitude, your symptoms and insomnia will go away."

Deal With Symptoms Of Altitude Sickness:

According to Dr. Valentino, sufferers of altitude insomnia should work with their bodies. "Stop and take a breath when you have to," she says. Changes in breathing can make some people feel panic, but the changes are temporary, and your body will acclimate.

Take A Mild Pain Reliever

"Don't lose sleep over the headache," says Dr. Valentino. She recommends taking a mild, over-the-counter pain reliever. This relief from pain alone helps some people sleep.

Stay Hydrated

As basic as it seems, water really does help. Most often, high altitude means cool temperatures and low humidity. Dr. Valentino explains that this increased risk of dehydration can lead to altitude sickness and eventually altitude insomnia.

See Your Doctor

"If you have had serious problems with altitude sickness or insomnia before, there are medications available to help," she says. "But these are really a last resort. Most people find relief in a day or two."

Roxanne Valentino, M.D., earned her medical degree from the Ohio State University. She completed her residency at the Cleveland Clinic followed by a fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic specializing in sleep medicine and neurophysiology. Dr. Valentino is certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in clinical neurophysiology.

Have you ever had a sleep disorder?