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Waking up at 4 a.m. every day is a way of life for
Cort. He gets about 5 hours of sleep each night on average. He doesn't mind
waking up early. But he does wish he had a few more hours of sleep at
"I'm a very light sleeper. So if someone opens a door, a dog
barks, an owl calls, it'll wake me up. I've never been a deep sleeper. I've
tried sleeping with earplugs and nothing makes a difference," Cort says. He
envies small children who can drop off to sleep anywhere. Cort has learned to
cope with getting less sleep.
Cort has done a lot of reading and
research about sleep problems. For him, anxiety is a big part of why he doesn't
sleep well. "When I wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning, my mind starts processing
stuff—things that I need to get done, that I forgot to do," he says. "Trying to
relieve that anxiety seems to me a very worthwhile sleep prescription."
Cort's research led him to this anxiety-reducing tip: Keep a pad of paper
and a pen by your bed to write down those thoughts racing around in your head.
This lets you get back to sleep without worrying about things you need to
remember to do in the morning.
When it comes to sleeping pills,
Cort has done his homework. While he does have a prescription, he uses the
medicine only when he needs to be well rested the next day, such as when he has
to give a presentation at work. Cort heeds his doctor's warning about becoming
dependent on sleeping pills. "I have a prescription for 5 mg tablets, and I
never take a full one. I break them in half, and I never take them more than
once in 2 weeks."
Cort also uses the pills in another way. By
having a pill on his bedside table, it relaxes him even if he doesn't actually
take it. It's a way of managing his anxiety about not getting enough
Cort's story reflects his experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Cort, to protect his privacy.
November 18, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
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