Ask Dr. Peters: Why can’t I sleep?

Dr. Justus Peters
By Justus Peters, M.D.

Having been a resident a few years ago, I can tell how poor sleep affects the body. There are many reasons why you can’t sleep. But also many things can help as well with poor sleep.
Being unable to sleep, also known as “insomnia,” affects one in five individuals. This is a very common  problem. The risk factors include medical illnesses, mental  illnesses, stress,  night shiftwork or rotating shifts.

We don’t know why, but it affects women more often, and occurs more often in people over the age of 60.

There are different kinds of issues with sleep. The issue most commonly experienced is simply falling or staying asleep. Also, if you have non-restorative sleep, where individuals wake up not feeling refreshed or having poor quality of sleep, then you have daytime fatigue and sleepiness during the day.

If you have difficulty concentrating and remembering changes, or moodiness, irritability,  anxiety or depression, they can stem from poor sleep. You might even experience reduced motivation and energy.

Doctors can help by ordering blood and urine tests to evaluate for liver or  kidney issues,  even for chemical imbalances such as low magnesium.

Keeping a sleep log to record your sleep habits and patterns over one to two weeks can help us detect which habits are bad.

Finally, we can order a sleep study, called a polysomnography, which is an overnight test that can diagnose problems such as sleep apnea.

We can treat insomnia with medications. But it is important to use the bedroom for just sleep and intercourse. Having a TV in the bedroom is the first thing that makes sleep poor. Using relaxation techniques in bed helps as well.

Lunesta and Ambien are two of the most commonly used sleep agents. They are well tolerated. I do not use Ambien in older age groups above 65, but Lunesta appears cleaner, with less side effects.

Until next time, stay healthy!

Please e-mail any questions or concerns to me at

 Dr. Justus Turner Peters, a family physician at Glen Rose Medical Center’s Pecan Plantation clinic, received his medical school training at Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska and completed his family medicine residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Board-certified in family medicine, Dr. Peters’ practice encompasses the care of infants and children as well as adults of all ages. He also conducts ongoing research in the areas of childhood obesity and lower extremity injuries. He serves as the county’s Local Health Authority.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>