We can't fall asleep; we can't stay asleep.
Sleep is so basic a function that we tend to obsess over not getting enough. And with recent studies warning that lack of sleep can lead to anything from being overweight to heart disease, the harrumph of the snorer and the drone of the guy counting sheep no longer seem funny.
Despite our best efforts to cuddle in the arms of Morpheus, insomnia plagues many of us on occasion. That contributes to the popularity of over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol PM and supplements like melatonin.
Insomnia is a condition characterized by difficulty falling asleep, problems staying asleep, waking prematurely, or feeling that the sleep was non-restorative.
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The National Institutes of Health reports that about a third of us complain of sleep problems, and about 10 percent say we can't function well during the day because of sleep disruption. That percentage is even higher in a poll recently released by the National Sleep Foundation, which found in a random sampling of about 1,500 adults that about half complained of daytime sleepiness.
Sleep problems can be transitory—coming and going—writes Michael Krugman, author of the new book, The Insomnia Solution ($13.95, Warner Books).
That type of sleeplessness usually results from stress. "Did I mail the car payment? Did I tell Bobby's teacher he won't be in school? What if I get fired?"
"Falling asleep involves a decrease in metabolism and a gradual cessation of readiness for action," writes Krugman, "whereas the stress response involves a rapid increase in metabolism, sending the organism into a state of preparedness for action."
It's obvious, he points out, that these are antagonistic processes; the one fights the other, disrupting our chances for sleep. And people who suffer this way are those he targets in his book, although he invites anyone to practice his "drug-free way to a good night's sleep."