"With insomnia nothing's real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy."
These are the words of the chronically fatigued narrator in the 1999 movie Fight Club, describing a problem that more than 35 million Americans experience, according to yourmedicalsource.com. Although insomnia's effects may not necessarily be contributing to the establishment of an underground boxing club or attempts to destroy corporate America, they can still be dangerous for those who wrestle with the sleeping disorder.
Insomnia can be especially problematic for students because of their sleeping schedules, said Steve Ross, a clinical psychologist and the clinical coordinator at the University Counseling Center.
"As much as possible try to stick to a sleep schedule," Ross said. "I understand as a student that might not always be possible."
Susan Hawkins is a 21-year-old Denver resident who has had insomnia since her freshman year of college and has had to battle with some of its side effects.
"If I don't sleep for a couple days I will start seeing things," Hawkins said. "When I'm driving at night and there is water on the road I will think it is an animal and it will startle me."
Ross said insomnia's side effects could range from poorer psychological and physiological health to mental deterioration.
"Extreme sleep depravation can result in psychosis, hallucination and delusion," Ross said. "It can be pretty significant."
Insomnia can be caused by poor nutritional choices, caffeine and sugar intake, anxiety, stress, depression, and exercise too close to bedtime.
Hawkins' insomnia developed after she was diagnosed with some of the lead causes of insomnia.
"I was diagnosed with depression when I was 12, but I also developed anxiety toward my later years in high school, and then in my sophomore year of college I started having panic attacks," Hawkins said. "The insomnia (probably started) because of the anxiety that I was diagnosed with a couple years ago."
Denise Proulx, an energy healer with Wholistic Health Options, 3525 Winslow Drive, said people could develop sleeping disorders from things that surround them every day, both positive and negative.
"Even if it's good stress like getting a job promotion (it can sffect sleep)," Proulx said. "It can be anything that throws you out of balance."
Susan Mead, a local medical herbalist who owns her own business, believes that the often overlooked and neglected cause of insomnia is liver congestion.
"There are so many chemicals in our food, water and air that we tend to have our livers pretty congested," Mead said. "Especially if you're partying too much on the weekend and tend to only have sleep problems a couple of days after you've been partying a lot, that could be a sign of a congested liver."
After having insomnia or going through a period without quality sleep, getting back on schedule is not as simples as sleeping in on the weekends.
"People build up a sleep debt, which is not something you can catch up on (during) the weekend," Ross said. "It's not that quick. It takes a while to balance the system back out."
There are a lot of options to help with insomnia. However, some of the pharmaceutical remedies can have side effects. Ross said most medications are not a permanent solution.
"The ones that are used as prescription medications, like Ambien, are only intended for short-term use; they don't promote a healthy sleep cycle," Ross said. "It tends to just knock you out."
Mead has also seen some of her clients develop an addiction to pharmacy drugs.
"I know a number of people who said that they felt like they became addicted to the sleep aids even as quickly as four to seven nights," Mead said.
When going the natural route to cure sleep loss, some people will need to try a range of different methods to find an effective one or go talk to an herbal or nutritional specialist.
Ron Stern, a nutritional consultant who owns his own Fort Collins business, suggested trying out calcium/magnesium pills or drinking more milk, which has the two minerals already in it.
"It's a natural muscle relaxer," Stern said. "That's why drinking a warm glass of milk before bedtime helps you relax."
Mead, on the other hand, considers the use of Nettle tea as an initial plan.
"With these dry Nettles, if you make a strong tea that you let steep for at least four hours, it's very supportive of the adrenal gland," Mead said. "Very often I see that insomnia has to do with stressed-out adrenal glands, especially for people who are waking up between 1 and 4 in the morning."
Sometimes it can be as simple as having the right sleeping accessories.
"Obviously choosing the right mattress and pillow will be a part of good sleep hygiene," Ross said.