3 Real Women With 3 Real Sleep Problems
We asked WebMD's sleep expert to help these tired ladies learn to get some shut-eye again.
Insomnia: Too stressed to sleep continued...
In 2007, Stewart’s doctor sent her to the St. Thomas Health Services Center
for Sleep in Nashville, where she underwent an overnight sleep study. The
results were glaring: Stewart was waking up 12 or 13 times a night, and she
wasn’t getting the deep sleep she needed to feel refreshed and energized. She
Ever wonder what insomnia is? Simply put, it's a medical condition that
occurs when a person can't get the sleep she needs at night to feel rested
throughout the day because she can’t fall asleep, stay asleep, or sleep long
enough to make it count. Many Americans -- in a culture that thrives on busy
schedules and stress -- fall into this category. The National Center on Sleep
Disorders Research at NIH reports that 30% to 40% of adults say they have some
symptoms of insomnia within a given year, and 10% to 15% of adults say they
have chronic insomnia. For most of us, sleepless nights -- more frequent when
we’re stressed or anxious -- come and go. But if you notice that you're having
trouble falling asleep, returning to sleep, or sleeping until your normal
bedtime -- or if you're irritable or having trouble concentrating -- for
more than a few weeks, you might have a case of insomnia. Schedule a chat with
your doctor to find out.
The Sleep Doctor's Rx for Insomnia
When we asked Michael Breus, PhD -- WebMD's Sleep Expert -- for advice on
Stewart's insomnia, he noted that "an inability to sleep at night is like not
being able to breathe. Lack of sleep starves a person of the energy she needs
to perform well, stay healthy, and enjoy life. Over time, the more sleep
Stewart misses, the higher her likelihood of developing heart disease,
diabetes, and depression."
Breus' advice for Stewart focused on making simple lifestyle changes and
maximizing her mental health to jump-start her sleep. To do that, he said, she
Say no to joe. "Stewart should start by cutting back on caffeine -- a
central nervous system stimulant that winds the body up and gets in the way of
sleep," Breus says. "A good rule is to avoid any caffeine after 2:30 in the
afternoon. That way it will have eight or nine hours to clear her system before
she winds down for the night."
Balance it out. Next, "she needs to find more balance in her life,
especially between career and family," Breus advised. "Working overtime as a
nurse should be the exception, not the rule, and time with her family should
focus on quality. She can’t do that if she’s overbooked and stressed."
Make life changes. Breus also noted that some of Stewart's habits
need to change. "Instead of logging on in the evening, she should 'power down'
and move her mind closer to a sleep state by shutting off the TV an hour before
bed, not working on the computer, and dimming the lights to relax," Breus says.
Too much light and mental stimulus signals the neurons in the brain that help
control the sleep-wake cycle to stay active.