Insomnia Runs in My Family, but Now I Have the Tips and Tools to Beat It

Frustrated with sleeping just two to three hours a night, Collette Szitta, 43, of Prescott, Wis., took matters into her own hands. Through trial and error, she discovered how simple lifestyle changes, combined with medication, can get her a good night's rest

Collette wouldn't let insomnia interfere with her competitive running.
Before the sun rose every morning, my father was out of bed. When he couldn't sleep, he would rise, trying not to wake us, and immediately leave for an hour-long bike ride. I couldn't understand why he would get up when it was still dark out.

Now I get it. My father was an insomniac—and it runs in the family.

About five years ago, I lost my job. Almost simultaneously, I began having trouble sleeping. I was anxious about money—How I was going to find another job?—and supporting my four kids. For weeks I was sleeping two, maybe three hours a night, total. I'd sleep for an hour, wake up, sleep for half an hour, and wake up again.

Being awake when everyone else is sleeping is one of the most frustrating things I've encountered. I was afraid of waking my husband and kids, so I would lie in bed and worry about how tired I was going to be the next day. I'm not a good daytime sleeper, so I knew nighttime was my only time to rest.

One day I watched a TV show that compared drunk driving with driving while tired. Being tired impairs people more than drinking. With my lack of sleep, I didn't feel safe driving anymore. My father had fallen asleep while driving, and I didn't want that to happen to me.

My breaking point came about two months after my sleep problems began. One of my passions is running—it helps keep me balanced and feeling good—and I've never had a problem heading out the door and running five or six miles, easy. But gradually, it became harder and harder. I physically could not do it: It got to the point where I could only make it one mile before I was exhausted and had to scale back.

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As told to: Mara Betsch
Last Updated: April 17, 2008

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