Question: Hi, I’m a 19 year-old college student and I haven’t gotten a full nights sleep in 5 nights and afraid something is wrong. The most sleep I’ve gotten is about 5 1/2 hours. I try to go to bed around the same time every night, and I make sure to stay away from caffeine, relax, and get my body ready for sleep. The problem is nothing seems to work! When I try to sleep, I lie in bed and toss and turn, and before I know it 2 hours have passed. I usually get out of bed, turn on the lights and continue reading, but it seems like my body won’t let me relax.
When I can’t sleep, I get very hot and sweaty, my heart starts beating really fast, and I kind of go into a panic mode. I do have moderate generalized anxiety disorder, but this is the first time I’ve had a problem like this. During the day I’m starting to have mood swings, feel depressed, and can’t think straight. I am also getting severe headaches. I don’t want to take a sleeping pill because I’m afraid I’ll get addicted. Please help!!!Kevin: Hey Christina, sorry about your sleep troubles. The idea that sleeping pills are addictive is more of a myth than a reality at this point in medicine. The mainstream sleeping pills are actually extremely non-addictive and safe as long as you don’t abuse them, just like most other medicines.Dr. Dement often equates having a sleeping pill in the medicine cabinet with having a fire extinguisher. You don’t need it every day by any means, but in the case of a sleep emergency (any situation that’s going to severely compromise your alertness the next day) it’s there for you to utilize and quell the issue.For myself, if it’s coming down to another night of not sleeping well or taking a sleeping pill, I’m going to call on the power of modern medicine to help save my productivity and mood for the days to come.All the best,Kevin(Please keep in mind that I am a student of sleep science and not a medical doctor. Please take any thoughts I give with my background in mind.)