How getting the right diagnosis can end your chronic insomnia nightmares

Monday, August 8, 2022
How getting the right diagnosis can end your chronic insomnia issue
When chronic insomnia and lack of sleep affect your daytime function, doctors say it's time for professional help.

HONEY BROOK, Pa. -- Americans spend billions in search of a good night's sleep.

A Chester County woman found that resolving her problems took a long quest for an accurate diagnosis.

Twenty-five years ago, Robin Coll didn't worry much about trouble sleeping.

"With two young children under 2, not sleeping felt like it was normal," recalls Robin.

When her kids got older, but her sleep didn't improve, Robin sought help.

She was erroneously told she had mental health issues, and given medications that slowly made life worse.

"I started experiencing hallucinations, OCD-like tendencies," she says.

After unknowingly punching her husband during an especially vivid dream, Robin's neurologist sent her to sleep expert Dr. Robert Satriale, FAASM, of Temple Health.

A broad battery of tests uncovered several sleep disorders, including chronic insomnia.

"When I was diagnosed, Dr. Satriale said from my sleep tests, it looked like I hadn't slept for about 10 years," Robin says.

Dr. Satriale says about one in three people have acute, short-term insomnia every year, with one in nine having chronic issues, lasting more than a month.

"They just don't fall asleep or stay asleep well on a regular basis," says the doctor.

Poor sleep takes a physical toll: daytime fatigue, less mental focus, and more discomfort or pain from medical conditions.

More pain then translates into even poorer sleep.

Dr. Satriale also says unrealistic expectations can play a role.

"People often believe they need 8 hours, 9 hours, 10 hours of sleep," he notes.

In fact, seven hours is enough for most people.

And shift workers shouldn't stress about splitting their sleep time.

"Years ago, before the light bulb, people often slept in 2 different shifts," says Dr. Satriale, adding, "They would have their first sleep after the sun goes down. They'd get up, they would do things around the house. They'd even go visit their neighbors and then they would go for a second sleep."

Robin says the right diagnosis and medicine, and good nightly routines have been lifesavers.

"I was able to actually find out what a real night's sleep felt like," she says with relief.

Dr. Satriale says if lack of sleep affects your daytime function, it's time for professional help.

Many problems don't require medications, just adjustments to daily habits.