"My life was so busy I didn’t have time to focus on being tired,” says Stewart of her early 30s. “But the exhaustion was always there. Most of the time, I felt like I hadn’t been to bed at all."
After living with little to no sleep nightly for almost seven years, and relying on soda and tea to revive her during the day, the fatigue finally took over. She couldn’t do things spontaneously with her teenage daughter and son. Instead, time with her kids was scheduled around her naps. The trickle-down effect of her sleeplessness on her family turned into a flood. "My daughter would ask me to go shopping, but I just couldn’t do it," says Stewart. "I’d have to wait until I could nap for a little while to have the energy to just walk through the mall. It was a horrible feeling."
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 had insomnia.
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.