Sleep may be a necessity, but for actor Justin Chambers it doesn’t come easily. The star of the hit TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” says that he suffers from a severe sleep problem.
“It's a biological sleep disorder,” Chambers said in the April 7 issue of People. “Your mind keeps racing, and your body is tired. It wants to go to sleep, but it can't.”
This inability to sleep well is called insomnia. It occurs when you have one or more of these problems:
- You are unable to fall asleep or stay asleep.
- You tend to wake up too early.
- Your sleep is unrefreshing.
Chambers is one of millions of people who suffer from insomnia. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, about 30 percent of adults have symptoms of insomnia. But only about 10 percent of people suffer from severe insomnia. The sleepless nights affect them during the day. These daytime effects can include:
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of motivation
It involves a state of “hyperarousal” at bedtime. Often your thoughts focus on your inability to sleep. As a result you may try harder to fall asleep. But this effort may cause you to stay awake even longer.
Chambers told People
that he sought help for his sleep problem. He checked into the UCLA Medical Center in January. If left untreated, psychophysiological insomnia can persist for decades. This can increase your risk of major depression. Excessive use of prescription medications
or other sleep aids also is common.
One of the most effective treatments for insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy. It helps you develop positive attitudes and habits. This promotes a healthy pattern of sleep. One common method is relaxation training.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine certifies doctors who have expertise in the use of these methods. These doctors are called “behavioral sleep medicine specialists.” They focus on treating insomnia and other sleep disorders without the use of medications. A list of AASM-certified behavioral sleep medicine specialists is available at: http://www.aasmnet.org/BSMSpecialists.aspx
You may be able to improve your sleep by following the basic rules of good sleep hygiene. Examples include:
- Avoiding caffeine at night
- Developing relaxing bedtime rituals
- Going to bed and waking up at the same times every day
The AASM also accredits sleep disorders centers that help people who struggle with any kind of sleep problem. You can find a directory of AASM-accredited sleep disorders centers at www.sleepcenters.org.
Reviewed by David Kuhlmann, MD
Updated March 28, 2008