A Good Night's Sleep

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Are You a Problem Sleeper?

Signs that you have a sleep deficit include taking more than 30 to 45 minutes to fall asleep, waking up many times a night, rousing after too few hours of sleep and being unable to return to sleep, waking up feeling tired, and feeling sleepy throughout the day.

Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep per night -- but the real cue that you're getting enough is waking up refreshed in the morning and feeling alert all day long. In addition, there's no need to worry if you experience occasional sleep difficulties -- say, a few times a month -- that don't interfere with your daily activities. Among adults with sleep difficulties, half those in the recent national poll reported that sleep problems resulted in "getting easily frustrated" or being unproductive. "It's perfectly common to have problems sleeping every once in a while," says David N. Neubauer, MD, associate director of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center.

When is a sleep problem classified as full-blown insomnia, the chronic inability to fall asleep or stay asleep? Starting to worry about it is one cue. Another is when the situation has lasted more than a month. Start by seeing your doctor, who will check for underlying health issues. If you're otherwise healthy, he or she may suggest remedies. Or consider asking for a referral to a sleep specialist for an evaluation and techniques for your type of problem. "Treatment takes longer when insomnia lasts more than a year," says Nancy Nadolski, MSN, a family nurse-practitioner in Boise, Idaho, who treats patients who have insomnia.

To see what goes on when you work with a sleep therapist, we sent two women with persistent sleep difficulties to local experts. You'll also learn how hormones affect sleep, which drugs help different sleep problems, and when a sleep lab can be useful (not for garden-variety insomnia, it turns out).

Continued on page 3:  Darlene Holte, 41


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