Recession got you stressed? Free help is on the way |

Recession got you stressed? Free help is on the way

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” As the worsening recession gets a firmer grip on the Roaring Fork Valley, area health officials are worried that the mental health of local workers might be suffering from the strain of anxiety about jobs and money.

To help residents deal with potential mental health issues in troubled times, Aspen Valley Hospital and the Given Institute of the University of Colorado are presenting “Coping with Life’s Challenges,” a series of free community lectures starting Thursday.

Dr. Mark Aloia will present two talks on “Sleepless in the Valley,” one at the Given Institute in Aspen from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a repeat of the same talk at AVH from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Aloia, clinical psychologist and director of sleep research at National Jewish Medical and Research Center, will discuss sleeping difficulties and offer ways for participants to explore causes and solutions.

Aloia told The Aspen Times his talks will not be exclusively about the relationship between insomnia and the economic slump, but more generally about stress and anxiety as they relate to sleeplessness.

In general, he said stress “serves as a precipitating factor in insomnia.”

He said some studies have shown that chronic insomnia affects 9 to 15 percent of Americans, although other studies say the incidence is closer to 5 percent.

Often, he said, those with chronic insomnia are “type A” personalities, insisting on tight control of their environment and with a tendency toward anxiety and depression.

Insomniacs often try to treat themselves, Aloia said, through such methods as trying to go to sleep earlier, which he said is not effective, “although that may seem counterintuitive.

“You don’t go to bed earlier to counteract insomnia,” he continued. “You go to bed later,” as a way of building up sleepiness to a point where it overcomes anxiety and worries.

He said he will offer other tips for dealing with insomnia, but emphasized that there is not really an ideal amount of sleep that humans should try to achieve.

“It definitely varies,” he said. “It’s very personal.”

He said “normal sleepers” are actually asleep about 90 percent of the time when they are in bed, and that today the typical adult gets about 7 hours of sleep per week night.

“But on weekends, it’s more like eight or more,” he explained, adding that researchers still believe eight hours of sleep is optimal.

As for the rest of the series, on March 12, clinical psychologist Martin Manosevitz and Michael Wall, a social worker and therapist, will talk about “the challenges of achieving mental health when the economy is sick,” according to a statement issued by AVH.

The final lecture in the series will be on March 19, with psychiatrist Alan Nelson, MD, speaking about mood variations.

All programs are from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Given Institute, 100 E. Francis St. in Aspen. Thursday’s lecture will be repeated from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Aspen Valley Hospital.

Call 544-1296 for more information.

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