Marnie Evans* was on vacation with her husband and kids in
Northern Ontario three years ago when her allergy medication ran out. Instead
of risking a medical emergency, she headed to the local hospital to get a new
prescription. But when the admitting nurse asked Marnie why she was there,
it became clear she had bigger problems than an expired prescription. Marnie
broke down in tears; suddenly allergies were the farthest thing from her mind.
“I haven’t slept in months,” she blurted out. “And I just can’t cope anymore.”
The 44-year-old felt herself drowning in work and had recently watched several
co-workers get laid off, which made her feel rattled by her own job instability. She
recalls struggling with insomnia on and off throughout her adult life, but this was
different. “I got very anxious about it, but that only made things worse,” she says.
Once the allergy meds were dealt with, the emergency doctor gave Marnie two
prescriptions: one for a tranquilizer to help her find calm in the short term, and
another that simply said, “Sleep.” “Take this to your family doctor,” he said.
“You need to figure this out.”
Marnie is one of the more than three million Canadians, mostly women, who
struggle with insomnia: It often takes them more than 30 minutes to fall asleep,
they wake up regularly during the night, or their eyes pop open at least a half-hour
before the alarm goes off . And the result? “During the day they feel awful,” says
psychologist Colleen Carney, director of the Sleep and Mood Disorder Program
at Ryerson University in Toronto. But there’s more to it than that: “Fatigue impacts
the way you think, your ability to concentrate and how you make decisions,” says
Carney. Plus, mounting research shows lack of sleep is linked to higher rates of
obesity, premature aging and chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
If Marnie’s story sounds familiar, try these surprisingly effective ways to stop
tossing and turning—and get your health back on track.