“Scientists Report the Discovery of a Brain ‘Switch’ That Brings On Sleep,” announced the headline of a New York Times article on January 12, 1996. The news marked the beginning of my quest to get to the bottom of my insomnia.
I used to be a “disordered” sleeper. That, at least, is the term I’ve heard applied to someone with a sleep schedule as erratic as mine was. One night I’d start nodding off after dinner, and the next night I’d be up till 3:30 in the morning. There was no rhyme or reason to it that I could see.
Sat Bir Khalsa, a professor and researcher at Harvard Medical School, thinks that among alternative treatments for insomnia, yoga may also be a viable solution for people who feel too aroused to sleep.
I attended Khalsa’s presentation at a conference a while back. Here’s the gist of what he said.
Lots of factors can push you in the direction of persistent insomnia: chronic stress, rumination and worry, and too much time in bed, to name a few.
Another factor that increases your susceptibility to insomnia is physiologic “hyperarousal,” sleep experts say.
Scientists have never found a way to determine how much sleep each person needs, so judgments about sleep need remain subjective.
But there is quite a range in sleep ability, or how much sleep people report that they get.
Trazodone has never been approved for the treatment of insomnia. Yet it rose to the top of the bestseller charts as a medication for sleeplessness in the 1990s and enjoys great popularity still. Here’s one explanation for its appeal.
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed often has to do with being short on sleep, and in recent years scientists have begun offering theories about why this is so.
Rosalind Cartwright’s research suggests that one function of sleep is the down-regulation of negative emotion so we can wake up in a happier frame of mind.