Financial Stress and Insomnia: Should You Try a Sleeping Pill?


Don’t overdose on stressful financial news, especially right before bed.


The ongoing recession—and November’s staggering loss of U.S. jobs—is enough to keep anyone up at night. If you’ve ever experienced stress-related insomnia, you probably know the basic sleep rules: Relax before bed, set a consistent schedule, and as you’re lying awake at 3 a.m., try not to think about things that are bothering you.

But with the unstable economy, and jobs and retirement savings hanging in the balance, you also know that’s easier said than done. Americans are more stressed about finances today than they were just six months ago, and many are losing sleep over it. So is it really possible to push all that emotion aside at bedtime? Or is now the time to get help from a doctor or a sleeping pill?

The answer involves how well you’re able to manage stress, says Mary Susan Esther, MD, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Dr. Esther, who practices sleep medicine at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates in North Carolina, is no stranger to economy-related sleep woes.

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“Charlotte has been really hit recently; Wachovia [is] based here, and so our phones have just been ringing off the hook the past few weeks with people complaining about sleeplessness and insomnia,” she says, referring to the ailing bank that is close to being swallowed up by Wells Fargo. “The economy means our jobs, and that’s always much more threatening than other problems that can seem easier to intellectualize and think through, especially when we’re lying awake and things seem hopeless. It’s our bread and butter, our source of pride, and that hits home a lot faster than other crises.”

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