You take your shut-eye for granted, until you find yourself staring at the bedroom ceiling at 2:33 a.m. one predawn too many. And then -- finally -- it hits you: Could this be more than an off night? Could you have a sleep problem?
If you do, getting to the bottom of the problem is important. Not catching enough ZZZs regularly can leave you feeling drained, depressed, anxious, stressed, and generally miserable. And it’s a vicious circle: The more stressed you are about being exhausted, the less likely you are to nod off. Over time, poor slumber has a dramatic impact on you and those around you, especially your family. Research shows that lack of shut-eye causes 1,500 deaths in vehicle crashes each year. Women sleeping five or fewer hours per night also are 32% more likely to gain weight -- as much as 33 pounds or more over 16 years in one study -- and 15% more likely to become obese than women who sleep at least seven hours per night. Moreover, a consistent lack of sleep raises the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, heart attack, and stroke.
Read on for the stories of three women who, for various reasons, just couldn’t sleep. We posed their situation to WebMD’s slumber expert, Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist with a specialty in sleep disorders and the author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health. Breus weighs in with advice for each about how to finally reach the land of sweet dreams tonight -- and every night.
Insomnia: Too stressed to sleep
Embarking on a new career as a nurse while caring for her two young children, Tammy Stewart, 38, of Portland, Tenn., was too harried, and often too stressed, to sleep. Worse, when she did finally find her way to bed, sleep eluded her.
While she might fall asleep, she would wake up again and again throughout the night. And with each waking episode, she spent up to an hour trying to get back to sleep. She used the computer to occupy her mind during the evening and watched TV when she couldn’t doze off. For Stewart, sleep was a mentally draining experience that made her feel more tired than rested the next day.