Today, Stewart lives -- and sleeps -- by many of Breus’ recommendations, such as avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, winding down away from her computer in the evening, minimizing stress, and relying more on her husband for support.
"My sleep has improved significantly since I was diagnosed and started making changes in my life and my nighttime habits," says Stewart. Living with insomnia, however, is no bed of roses.
While Breus notes that most people have a short bout of the disorder for a week or two and then return to a more normal shut-eye pattern, Stewart is one of the 10% to 15% of U.S. adults with chronic insomnia. Breus describes that condition as "the continual battle for better sleep." But Stewart sounds as if she is on the right track, says Breus. "She might consider cognitive behavioral therapy to take it one step further, but she’s making many of the right moves now to maximize her sleep."
Restless Leg Syndrome: Like Bugs Under the Skin
Lynne Kaiser’s earliest memory from her childhood is walking into the family bathroom, filling up a hot water bottle, and bringing it to bed with her. It was the only way she could keep the muscles in her legs relaxed, so they wouldn’t move and she could fall asleep. She was 4 years old and she already had restless leg syndrome.
Forty-one years later, Kaiser, who lives in Dallas, was still taking a water bottle to bed, but the uncontrollable urge to move her legs wasn’t her only problem. "I could feel it throughout my body, like the sensation of bugs crawling under my skin on my head and shoulders, and a tension in my muscles." Kaiser’s symptoms were a nightmare: The exhaustion, pain coursing through her body, and constant movement in her legs would force her into a shallow state of relaxation, usually after 5 a.m. She was so tired, she says, that exercising, relaxing, and other healthy habits didn’t feel like an option for her. Even the occasional drink to celebrate a special occasion like a birthday made sleep unbearable.