The patient: Paul, a 70-year old recently retired NASA scientist, had severe sleep problems since his change in employment.
Why he came to see me: Paul would lie awake at night with a head full of worry and sleep on and off through the night. He had investigated virtually every drug solution and sleep study technique known to regular medicine with very little help. Some of the prescriptions Paul didn’t like because of long term side effects and the changes in his concentration and mental clarity they caused. He admitted that most doctors didn’t really seem interested in solving problems that they couldn’t fix with drugs.
How I evaluated him: I had asked him to come to the office visit with a list of all his previous tests, medications, and physicians visited so we wouldn’t waste time. During our initial hour appointment, we spoke about his work environment and how he had become used to intense problem solving, often with very little time to spare, and how he loved working like this. He confessed that now that he had time on his hands he felt anxious about being old and less relevant and wished he could return full-time to his former employer.
How we addressed his problem: Paul had been so dedicated to his work and associated lifestyle that it had defined him. He either needed to change the way he was living or return to his former ways. Since he wanted to work like he had before and he no longer could work full time for his former employer, I suggested that he form his own consulting company and use his unusual knowledge and skill to work for companies his former employer had business with in the past.
I told Paul that we would work on supporting his mental and physical challenges through diet and supplement regimes and that normally I advocated lifestyle changes for patients—but in his case, this was not what he needed. In fact, his slower pace was the cause of his sleep disturbances.
The patient’s progress: Interestingly, within a few days of his committing to “returning to full time,” Paul could get to sleep and stay asleep much easier. Although he did have a limited non-compete agreement in place, he was able to work around it enough to find 40 to 50 hours a week of consulting at a higher pay rate than before he retired. He reported during our follow-up visit that he was waking more refreshed than he remembered when he was working for his former employer. He then told me that he believed he had been his own worst enemy and that since the sleep problem was due to his perception, he needed someone else to make him aware of it.
We followed up with a supplement regime (I had to provide all the research for him to review and agree to) and he admitted to feeling better than he had in years. I think that this rocket scientist really wanted to continue to burn bright and go out with a bang.