How to Beat Insomnia: Admit It, Accept It, and Then Get Help

"I dont want to be a victim—I want to own my life" (1:44)
It's important to face your insomnia and get real help, says Thomas, 58, instead of relying on a pill or a magic cure.

Thomas battled chronic insomnia for about five years before seeking help from his doctor. A divorce from his wife set off his sleep problems: “The disturbances started slowly, with maybe a jumping or a twitching at night,” says the real estate executive, 58. “Then came looking at the clock and being upset and worried. And then it got worse, to the point where I was afraid to go to bed.”

As he got less and less sleep, Thomas noticed that his personality began to change. “I was being pushed down the road to depression,” he says. “A lot of it was personal issues going on at the time—I was agitated with my son when he didnt call. There were lingering problems with my divorce. Aging parents. I could lose my job. But I also feel like my insomnia was a big part of it, probably about 30%.” (Watch Thomas discuss insomnia and depression.)

Thomas finally visited a sleep specialist who truly paid attention to his issues, instead of just prescribing more sleeping pills. The doctor helped him address his fears and anxieties, finding ways to ease his mind at bedtime.

A big part of reducing stress was medication—but the right medication, not just any sleeping pill. Thomas doctor prescribed an antidepressant, and once he began taking it he not only felt better, but he slept better, as well. (Watch Thomas discuss his medication.) Certain antidepressants have been shown to reduce sleep problems in patients who have underlying depression, and are often a less expensive option compared with hypnotic sleep aids.

Lifestyle changes are also helping Thomas beat his insomnia: Hes started running and lifting weights regularly, and is perusing hobbies to take his mind off of his worries.“I feel more driven,” he says. “I have some goals now. And those goals are important to me.”

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