Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: Hi. I have not been able to fall asleep naturally since 2003. The medicine I take to help me sleep gives me horrible sinus infections. Do you know a way I can fall asleep naturally? Thank you. I read your tweets, and you rock!
— Michele L., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
I'm afraid that you have a sleep disorder and should seek the intensive advice and diagnostic abilities of a sleep clinic. Since you live in a big city, your local medical school will have a training hospital. Go there instead of a general practitioner. Chronic insomnia is a very specific and often baffling problem.
In the meantime, if you decide to pursue self-help, the next steps all are experimental. You need to try various things and see which begin to offer improvement.
Sleep in a totally blacked-out room. Even a minor amount of light can disturb sleep and make insomnia worse.
Go to sleep at the same time every night.
Don't read before going to sleep or use your mind actively at the computer or on work brought home from the office.
Don't eat close to bedtime.
In place of pharmaceutical sleep aids, explore the many herbal options.
Meditate in bed for half an hour without worry about falling asleep. Then slide gently into a sleeping position as you follow your breathing in and out.
Follow a regular, easy stretching program and tend to minor aches and pains. Stiffness and discomfort in the body greatly contribute to insomnia.
A warm bath before bedtime.
Don't plunge into these things all at once. Obsessing over a cure is asking for trouble. You are probably obsessing too much already. Be as easy and objective about this issue as you can be. In the long run, however, a sleep disorder clinic would seem to be the wisest choice after seven years of sleeplessness.