The pain and fatigue that people with chronic illness experience have a serious impact on their daily lives, including sleep. Because of their illness, they often have trouble sleeping at night, and are consequently sleepy during the day. This is especially the case for people who have neurological (nervous system) diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Additionally, many people with chronic illnesses also suffer from depression, which can also affect their sleep. Lastly, some drugs used to treat chronic illnesses can cause sleep problems.
You've spoken publicly about your struggles with insomnia. When did your problems start?
As an actress in my 20s. After my role in Goodfellas and 10 years past that, I was working nonstop. I was jumping from one set to the next. A lot of times we shot at night. I had to be awake at night and a little bit in the day. It became jarring and difficult to do without sleep.
You obviously felt pretty strongly about that, since you decided to be one of the people heading up the "Sleepless Moms"...
The first step is to try to control the pain associated with the illness. Once pain is controlled, sleeping may not be a problem. Your doctor can prescribe the appropriate pain relieving medication that suits your condition.
If after following adequate pain control, you are still experiencing problems with sleep, these tips may help:
Keep noise in the room and surrounding area down as much as possible.
Sleep in a dark room.
Keep the room temperature as comfortable as possible.
Eat or drink foods that induce sleep, such as warm milk.
There are a number of other non-medicinal approaches that are effective for sleep, including biofeedback, relaxation training, cognitive behavioral therapy, and sleep restriction techniques. These therapies are most often administered by a psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders.