October 1st, 2008
01:11 PM ET

Sleepless in Atlanta

By Georgiann Caruso
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Many of us wake up in the middle of the night making mental to-do lists. Sound familiar? I am guilty of this. A recent visit to my doctor ended with the diagnosis: anxiety. After trying an assortment of medications, I sometimes still wake up only to realize it's 4 a.m.

Dr. David Schulman, director of Emory's sleep lab center, says a third of Americans have insomnia, including trouble falling asleep as well as trouble staying asleep, a reflection of our high-stress society.

My doctor prescribed a sleep study, and today's the day. My mind is full of racing thoughts. What if I can't sleep to give them something to study? What exactly IS a sleep study, anyway?

Here’s how it went: Studies such as mine look at everything from stages of sleep to blood oxygen levels and the amount a person snores, says the National Sleep Foundation.

Attaching electrodes to my body - my legs, nose, temples and jaw area - took about 45 minutes. I had less trouble sleeping than I anticipated. The technician showed me a bit about how she could tell when I was asleep by watching my brain activity waves. A small video camera in the corner of the room allowed her to monitor me constantly. A two-way speaker system allowed me communicate with her. When I had to get up to use the restroom in the middle of the night, the technician easily unhooked and reconnected me.

Now, I have to wait a couple of weeks for the results. Sleeping while wired up was not nearly that bad in hopes of a real solution to a real problem.

Have you experienced problems sleeping? What did you do?

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Curtis

    The worst part of the sleep test-getting the electrode "goo" out of my hair after both of my sleep tests. However, this was a small price to pay for now being able to sleep through the night.
    I use a CPAP machine for about 6 hours each night. Ususally, sometime in the early hours of the morning I wake up, remove my nasal mask, roll over and go right back to sleep for thenext hour or so.
    I have gone from waking every few hours, late night trips to the bathroom and having my wife worry about my snoring to getting sound, quality sleep – every night. I now have more energy, an improved temprament (according to my sons) and feel better overall.

    October 2, 2008 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Lee, Yorktown Virginia

    1. Take a dose of calcium and magnesium at bedtime

    2. Drink a cup of water with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of sea salt at bedtime.

    3. Eliminate ALL light sources in your sleep area.

    4. Use a small fan in your bedroom for some low-level white noise.

    5. Don't watch any television within 3 hours of going to bed. Don't use the computer within 1 hour of bedtime. Use low level lighting in the evening. Reading with low-level lighting does not hurt your eyes.

    6. The right kind of exercise at the right time improves sleep. This internet article boils it down to the following: 1) Time your exercise five to six hours before bedtime, 2) Make your exercise vigorous enough to make you sweat a little. Previous studies have shown that non-aerobic stretching and concentration exercises alone did not impart sleep, 3) Stick with it! Participants in this study did not report improved sleep until they had been exercising for 16 weeks.

    7. Get yourself checked for a thyroid disorder with possible adrenal stress.

    October 2, 2008 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jeffanne

    Prior to taking a very important exam, I had a very hard time falling asleep. While in college, I'd be sleepy around 12am-1am. But when the test date was coming up, I'd be sleepless for nights on end. I remember one night telling myself I will take a practice exam the next day. I didn't fall asleep at all. This kept on until I took the test. I gradually got back to my regular sleeping cycle but before that, I'd have to take sleeping pills (Tylenol PM, non-addictive) in order to fall asleep. Now, I'm "sleeping" but dreaming about things I will have to do the next day. It's annoying for me, since I love sleeping, and I'm trying to get back to where I can sleep on my own. Now, I read books and clean before going to bed. It helps me settle down a bit so I can catch some Zzz's later on.

    October 3, 2008 at 02:03 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.