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Gearing Advantage

Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

Their methods and strategies have been sharpened over the years, and are now built upon Gearing Up’s Three Gears of Change.

Heath Ledger's Untimely Death - Jan 24, 2008

Heath Ledger's Untimely Death

January 24, 2008

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

The untimely death of twenty-eight year old acclaimed actor Heath Ledger has saddened millions of fan and celebrities worldwide. Found in his Manhattan apartment on Tuesday, Ledger's autopsy results proved inconclusive, but we do know that the talented actor was reportedly struggling with insomnia. Authorities fear that he may have inadvertently overdosed on prescription sleep aides in an effort to deal with this problem. This tragedy has raised important questions about the relationship between stress and sleep. Here to tell us more is TXA 21 News Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: We know that reports indicate that Ledger was under severe stress with his flourishing acting career. Can stress due to success become lethal at some point?

Dr. Sylvia: It absolutely can become lethal, especially if it leads to serious problems in managing your life. According to the American Psychological Association, one third of Americans claim that they live with extreme stress and half of them report that their stress has increased over the last five years. Studies tell us that highly stressed people are more likely to die prematurely, especially if they have a multitude of stressful events in their lives. But the real issue is the chronic stress of day-to-day challenges that slowly but irrevocably erode our sense of well-being. Immunity, both physically and psychologically, slowly dissolves over the years.

Q: So we understand that we cope less efficiently when we can't sleep, but which problem comes first--the stress and anxiety or the sleep problems?

Dr. Sylvia: There is major correlation between stress and depression and sleep difficulties. Up to 90% of depressed patients have insomnia, and insomniacs have 35 times the rate of depression when compared to good sleepers. However, we do know that insomnia does precede depression in most cases, and studies have shown that if you deprive a normal person of just two hours a night for five nights that they will begin to show symptoms of depression.

Q: Media reports suggest that the young actor may have been suffering from insomnia. Is this problem a common symptom of stress?

Dr. Sylvia: Most people do not realize how dangerous sleep deprivation can become. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Emotional Coping Reduced: Over time, chronic sleep deprivation leads to significant reductions in functioning. It's harder to concentrate, to control your emotions and to interact with others.

Reactions Compromised: Chronic insomniacs have four times the incidence of car accidents when compared to individuals who sleep well. This is a comparable rate to driving under the influence. Falling asleep at the wheel causes half of all fatal accidents. Insufficient sleep is the primary cause of this catastrophe.

Substance Abuse Issues: Tragically, if you can't sleep, you are likely to turn to some kind of chemical, whether it is prescribed or is procured over the counter. People with sleep problems have 2.4 times more alcoholism than average. Functioning as your own physician with sleep medications, alcohol or with a combination of both can be a prescription for disaster.

Q: We do know that Mr. Ledger was working an arduous schedule. Does stress at work contribute to stress and insomnia?

Dr. Sylvia: The American Psychological Association's 2007 Stress in America survey found that 75% of Americans view their jobs as the leading cause of stress in their lives. This figure represents a dramatic jump from 60% in 2006. Millions of people are claiming their jobs are making their lives worse. Chronic overworking can cause normal stress to transform into clinical depression. If you are constantly stressing out, you will sleep less effectively and then become more emotional than usual. Once those mood swings begin, it is difficult to end them.

Q: What advice do you have for our viewers on distressing and sleeping better?

Dr. Sylvia:

Sleep is a Commodity: Your sleep is s cornerstone of self-maintenance. You have to guard your sleep for your mind and body to function. Remember too that our ability to sleep declines as we age. After age fifty, more than half of all Americans are unable to get the sleep they require.

Make It Count: The only person who can change your situation is you and you must also guard your perceptual accuracy. If you sleep well and then perceive your life realistically and accurately, your stress will be manageable and silver linings in any challenge are more apparent.