Q: I’ve had chronic, severe insomnia all my life. All I get from well-meaning people is the advice to stop drinking coffee. All I get from doctors are more and more drugs, which work for a while, then quit.
I go days at a time without sleep. My brain is so fried. Any suggestions would be really welcome.
A: Although yours is an extreme case, you are not alone. Millions of people also have great difficulty falling asleep. Others awaken in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep. Regardless, sleep deprivation can contribute to a range of health problems, from hypertension and forgetfulness to impaired immunity and weight gain.
Some tricks to try include vigorous exercise early in the day, a hot bath an hour before bedtime or a high-carb snack half an hour before climbing into bed.
Nondrug approaches such as relaxation CDs, magnesium, melatonin or herbs like valerian, hops or lemon balm also may be helpful.
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. E-mail them via their Web site: www.peoples pharmacy.com. They can be reached at peoplespharmacy @gmail.com.