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January 24, 2012 > How Long Has it Been Since You Had a Good Night's Sleep?

How Long Has it Been Since You Had a Good Night's Sleep?

Washington Hospital Seminar Offers Tips for Insomnia

When was the last time you had a good night's sleep? Does your mind start racing at bedtime? If you have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep, you may have insomnia.

"If you ask a good sleeper what they need to do to fall asleep, they will probably tell you that they just lay down and go to sleep," said Dr. Nitun Verma, director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders. "But if you ask someone with insomnia, they usually have a list of things they do. Sleep is an automatic process; it's not something you can make your body do. Sometimes the more you try to make yourself sleep the harder it will actually be to go to sleep. It can backfire."

Verma will talk about insomnia and offer tips for sleeping better at an upcoming Washington Hospital seminar. "Are You Having Trouble Falling Asleep?" is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, February 1, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The free seminar will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. Register online at or call (800) 963-7070 for more information.

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects about one in three adults, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Up to 10 percent are likely to have chronic insomnia.

Chronic Insomnia

"Everyone can have a bad night's sleep or go through a period where they aren't sleeping well," Verma said. "But when it goes on for weeks or even months, you may need to get help from someone who specializes in sleep disorders."

Symptoms of insomnia include having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, low energy, lack of motivation, daytime sleepiness, frustration or worry about sleep, and problems with attention, concentration and memory.

"Just because you have these symptoms doesn't mean you have insomnia, but they are a good indication that you are not getting a good night's sleep," he added.

Verma will discuss some of the reasons people have difficulty sleeping and explain how the brain works. While a medical condition, medication use, and mental health or substance abuse issues can affect sleep, it is often the result of not being able to turn off the brain.

"The brain is like a racecar without a brake pedal," he explained. "It can accelerate and change lanes, but there is no brake to jam on at the last minute. You have to let up on the gas and allow your brain to coast to a stop."

Verma said people with insomnia say they feel like they are "tired but wired." They are physically exhausted, but can't get their brains to slow down long enough to sleep.

Good Sleep Habits

He will talk about the importance of having good sleep habits to develop a healthy sleep pattern and will provide a number of examples that will help people get a better night's sleep.

"If you Google insomnia, you will get a lot of tips for getting a better night's sleep," Verma said. "Many of my patients tell me they tried them and they didn't work. That's because you first need to understand how the brain works and how to slow it down."

Some examples of good sleep habits include going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and creating a quiet, dark sleep environment. He said it's also important to have a relaxing bedtime routine and not to use the computer or watch television in bed.

Verma will also discuss some of the prescription and over-the-counter medications that are available to help people sleep. He said these can be effective, but cautioned against overuse.

"Even the best sleep medication wears off and you are faced with the same problem," he said. "We may be creating a population of people who don't think they can sleep without sleep medication. These medications are not a permanent fix."

The Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders can help those who suffer from chronic insomnia find long-term solutions so they can sleep better. The clinic treats all types of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and narcolepsy.

To learn more about the Center, visit

For more information about other classes and seminars offered at Washington Hospital, visit

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