After a full night of activity, an owl can sleep through the day. After a full night of tossing and turning, Andrew Ostarello has to attend classes, track practice and wind ensemble rehearsals.Everything is an obstacle to his sleep. He looks for reasons to explain his insomnia — a noise outside, the position of his arm or the shadows cast by the flashing lights of the VCR.”A lot of times there’s just so many things to think about — it’s just the inability to clear your mind. These thoughts just keep coming and it’s impossible to relax,” the senior political science major explains.Ostarello’s problem is common. Fifty-six percent of American adults suffer from insomnia. Counseling & Career Services Director Dennis Nord said students need more sleep than anyone to maintain a normal life and yet remain the group whose sleeping patterns are most often disturbed by a fast-paced lifestyle.The right amount of sleep varies by individual, but “the old idea of eight hours is probably not going to go too wrong for anyone,” he said. Nord also cautions students not to worry if it is six or 10 hours; the important thing to watch for is change in sleeping patterns.”Someone who usually sleeps six or eight [hours], then is suddenly sleeping 10″ should recognize that they might have a problem. Irregular sleep patterns can indicate other problems, most typically anxiety or depression. Ostarello links his insomnia with the former.”During finals, before big races or in times of family crisis, I’ll be awake, and I’ll stay awake for hours,” he said. “Eighty to 85 percent of the time, [the insomnia] was caused by anxiety.”After finally falling asleep, Ostarello dozes into the afternoon. If he gets up early, he may fall asleep in class. When weekends arrive, he will hang out with friends and stay up late, never allowing his body to catch up on its needed sleep. “It’s a vicious downward spiral,” he said.Nord said students who work graveyard shifts and still get 8 hours of sleep can have problems stemming from altered sleeping patterns.”If we’re not in the dark enough our endocrine system gets out of whack,” Nord said. The endocrine system is linked to brain chemistry and can control anxiety.”I think it has a huge affect on performance … how we drive … how we learn,” Nord said. “It has an effect on mental sharpness.”Long-term effects of sleeplessness can include “memory impairment, mood changes, diminished work efficiency and an increase in accidents and illness,” reports American Drug Stores, Inc.Simple SolutionsThere are a variety of techniques to treat insomnia that involve the most basic of day-to-day habits. Material distributed by American Drug Stores, Inc. reports that 80 percent of insomnia cases have one of four causes: “acute stress or other emotional problems, environmental disturbance, disruption of daily-nightly living patterns, and drug and/or alcohol abuse.”Diet can also affect a good night’s sleep, and simple dietary changes can offer a quick fix to mild forms of insomnia. Large meals should be avoided within two to three hours of bedtime. It is also suggested to avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.American Whole Health said including thiamin (vitamin B1), magnesium and tryptophan in a diet may also contribute to a good night’s sleep. Asparagus, wheat, sunflower seeds, tuna, pasta and white rice all contain thiamin. Magnesium is available in spinach, avocados, almonds, chocolate and oysters. Tryptophan, associated with that drowsy feeling after Thanksgiving turkey, is also found in chicken, peanuts and warm milk with honey.Because solutions vary by individual, Nord’s answer to insomnia involves observing daily sleep patterns and asking “can you modify this in some reasonable way?”Nord said students often resist the best solutions because going to sleep and waking up on a regular schedule interferes too much with the way they live their life. The catch is that it is usually the way that they live their life that causes the problem.”When there is too much speed in your life, the body reacts like one of someone past middle age,” he said.In addition to establishing a routine sleep pattern, Nord tells students to “figure out what time of day you are most mentally alert and work on your difficult subjects. … Maybe calculus isn’t the best thing to study at midnight.”Another recommended routine is to use the bedroom only for sleeping and sex. “Read or watch television in a different room,” and “don’t nap during the day,” suggests American Drug Stores, Inc.Still Sleepless?When these remedies are unsuccessful, it may be time to consult a professional to consider sleeping medication or counseling to ease contributing factors such as anxiety and depression.Consistent difficulty sleeping can also be an indicator of physical conditions including arthritis, kidney disease, heart failure, asthma, Parkinson’s disease and hyperthyroidism, according to the National Center of Sleep DisordersResearch reports.People with chronic insomnia should consult a doctor.”What we have to look at is our modern life isn’t normal,” Nord said. “We have lights on at all hours. … We’re driving faster than was ever intended for our bodies.”