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What to do if you can’t sleep

A serious and widespread problem

According to the CDC, “About 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. Sleep deprivation is associated with injuries, chronic diseases, mental illnesses, poor quality of life and well-being, increased health care costs, and lost work productivity. Sleep problems are critically under-addressed contributors to some chronic conditions, including obesity and depression.”

Sleep problems come in different flavors

For years I’ve been helping people overcome various sleep disorders. Sleep problems can be caused by depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, medication reactions, hormone imbalances, unresolved interpersonal conflicts to name a few. Such serious conditions require solutions that address the underlying problem as well as the symptom of insomnia. Mental health specialists trained in sleep disorders are a good resource to help evaluate, diagnose and form an effective treatment plan for such underlying problems.

Fortunately, the vast majority of sleep problems that I encounter are related to poor sleep habits and poor sleep environment. These problems are more easily addressed and can often be resolved in a matter of weeks with the right information, the right attitude and adequate family/partner support.

Drugs are seldom the answer

Using medication to help induce or maintain sleep is often problematic. Many sleep medications are addictive, foster dependence, and some build tolerances. Most that I know of detrimentally affect the sleep cycle – you might sleep, but it is not deep restorative sleep: memory, energy, vitality, and attitude all seem to suffer. While there are times when the benefit of using a sleep medication might outweigh the cost (to reset a wayward sleep cycle, to mitigate a severe emotional state, or to temporarily counteract the stimulant effect of another medication), my experience is that they are over-prescribed, under-monitored, and frequently abused.

Using alcohol or marijuana to induce sleep is even more problematic. The long-term mental and physiological consequences far outweigh what turns out to be a very short-term benefit.

Here are two resources, one more motivational, the other more informational – both intended to give you what you need to help you get the consistent, refreshing, revitalizing sleep to help you face each day with optimal health and vitality.

America’s biggest problem | Kirk Parsley | TEDxReno


And this article from the National Institutes of Health is one of the best resources I know:

Understanding Sleep – Brain basics from the NIH

If the suggestions you find here aren’t enough, you might consider scheduling an evaluation appointment with me, your primary care physician, or a sleep specialist/clinic in your area. The one thing you don’t want to do is to allow a chronic sleep disorder to go untreated. The cost to you and to those you love is simply too great.