Cort's Story: Coping With Insomnia
Waking up at 4 a.m. every day is a way of life for Cort. He gets about 5 hours of sleep each night on average. He doesn't mind waking up early. But he does wish he had a few more hours of sleep at night.
"I'm a very light sleeper. So if someone opens a door, a dog barks, an owl calls, it'll wake me up. I've never been a deep sleeper. I've tried sleeping with earplugs and nothing makes a difference," Cort says. He envies small children who can drop off to sleep anywhere. Cort has learned to cope with getting less sleep.
Cort has done a lot of reading and research about sleep problems. For him, anxiety is a big part of why he doesn't sleep well. "When I wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning, my mind starts processing stuff—things that I need to get done, that I forgot to do," he says. "Trying to relieve that anxiety seems to me a very worthwhile sleep prescription."
Cort's research led him to this anxiety-reducing tip: Keep a pad of paper and a pen by your bed to write down those thoughts racing around in your head. This lets you get back to sleep without worrying about things you need to remember to do in the morning.
When it comes to sleeping pills, Cort has done his homework. While he does have a prescription, he uses the medicine only when he needs to be well rested the next day, such as when he has to give a presentation at work. Cort heeds his doctor's warning about becoming dependent on sleeping pills. "I have a prescription for 5 mg tablets, and I never take a full one. I break them in half, and I never take them more than once in 2 weeks."
Cort also uses the pills in another way. By having a pill on his bedside table, it relaxes him even if he doesn't actually take it. It's a way of managing his anxiety about not getting enough sleep.
Cort's story reflects his experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Cort, to protect his privacy.
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