What Is Insomnia?

Almost everyone goes through bouts of sleeplessness from time to time. It happens to the average person about once a year. That's the cost of being human and having the capacity to worry about the future and chew over the past.

Chronic insomnia, however, is marked by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or waking up too early. If it takes you thirty minutes or more to fall asleep, or you're awake for thirty minutes or more during the night at least three times a week–for a month or more–you're offically suffering from insomnia. Nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population experiences chronic insomnia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Insomnia has major effects on mood as well as alertness. It is also a classic symptom of depression.

Short-acting sleeping pills may improve sleep and next-day alertness. But the best way to handle a bout of insomnia is to do nothing; the body's sleep mechanism tends to right itself, if given the chance.

The most effective treatments for chronic insomnia are behavioral techniques that eliminate sleep anxiety and allow the body's own sleep cycle to kick in.

Recent posts on Insomnia

Smartphones Reveal How the Modern World Is (Not) Sleeping

Do you sleep with a smartphone next to your bed? If so, compelling new research offers multiple reasons to turn off your phone (and other digital devices) one hour before bedtime.

Why Insomnia Isn’t Just a Nighttime Problem

By Michael J Breus Ph.D. on May 05, 2016 in Sleep Newzzz
Emerging research indicates that insomnia isn’t just something that happens at night, it's a 24-hour condition.
William Warby/ wikipedia.org

Timing Power

Time rules life. You want to know how to use it.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Nap

By Michael Terman Ph.D. on April 06, 2016 in Chronotherapy
Take control of your inner clock with a nap! Find out the best time for a nap, and how long it should be. Learn how naps affect your memory and your health.
andrew weber/pexels.com/stock.tookapic.com

Political Insomnia Disorder

Attention! Attention! To sleep, turn off your TV.

The Social and Behavioral Costs of Sleeplessness

By Michael J Breus Ph.D. on March 11, 2016 in Sleep Newzzz
Given the effects that sleep has on social relationships and behavior—both in the workplace itself and in other areas of life—the importance of sleep needs to be addressed.
Morning time alarm/pexels.com/gratisography.com

Why Can't People Sleep?

Most of us want to sleep better - but doing what's necessary is another story.

Living—and Sleeping—Mindfully

By Michael J Breus Ph.D. on February 12, 2016 in Sleep Newzzz
The power of mindfulness to improve sleep and treat sleep disorders is an exciting and important area of scientific inquiry with significant real-world implications.

6 Ways You Can Stop Overthinking Everything

It's hard to get anything done when you can't shut your mind off. These strategies can help you quiet your mind so you can stop overthinking everything you do.

Interminable Terminal Insomnia, Part II

By Michael Terman Ph.D. on January 10, 2016 in Chronotherapy
How does a clinical social worker proficient in sleep hygiene cope with persistent terminal insomnia? Abigail concludes her exploration of treatment for her holdout symptom of SAD.

Interminable Terminal Insomnia

By Michael Terman Ph.D. on January 08, 2016 in Chronotherapy
How does a clinical social worker proficient in sleep hygiene cope with persistent terminal insomnia? Abigail details her struggle with her least favorite symptom of SAD.

Exercise Improves Sleep, but Maybe Not How You Think

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on January 05, 2016 in Think, Act, Be
Aerobic exercise helps sleep, but not always in the way we expect it to.

Neural Pathways to Sleep

By John Cline Ph.D. on January 03, 2016 in Sleepless in America
New understanding of neurotransmitter systems involved in sleep and wakefulness is helping guide the development of new treatment approaches to sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Good Sleep Is Low Tech

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on December 29, 2015 in Think, Act, Be
For better sleep, banish beeping and buzzing from the bedroom.

Sleep Loss Disrupts Emotional Balance via the Amygdala

By Christopher Bergland on December 09, 2015 in The Athlete's Way
Sleep deprivation makes the amygdala unable to regulate emotions with neutrality. This explains why people who are tired tend to be moody and emotionally volatile.

Adults With ADHD Are More Common Than You'd Guess

By Temma Ehrenfeld on October 06, 2015 in Open Gently
ADHD affects 3 to 5 percent of adults.

Get More Sleep and a Better Night's Rest

By Susan Biali M.D. on October 05, 2015 in Prescriptions for Life
Exhausted? Longing for more sleep? If you have a hard time getting yourself to bed, and don't sleep very well once you get there, these tips will help you get a better night's rest.

Whither the Weathering of Wuthering Weather

By Mark Borigini M.D. on September 28, 2015 in Overcoming Pain
Autumn has begun, the days are shorter, the leaves taking a more prominent place outside the front door. The thought of winter’s approach crosses the mind; and for some of us, the specter of more musculoskeletal pain begins its yearly haunting. But should we believe in the ghosts of chronic pain?

Sleep, Dreams, and Income Inequality

Low-income people tend to have worse sleep, and fewer lucid dreams, than do high-income people. Those are some of the findings from a new demographic survey of the sleep and dream patterns of American adults.

The Most Important Way to Fight Insomnia

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on August 26, 2015 in Think, Act, Be
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I, is a powerful non-drug treatment. Find out one of the main principles that underlies its effectiveness.

When Working Shifts Works Against You

By Shelby Harris Psy.D. on August 25, 2015 in The Land of Nod
A discussion of Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Complicated Grief and the Inner Clock

By Michael Terman Ph.D. on August 11, 2015 in Chronotherapy
For some bereaved individuals, grief turns from an emotion into an illness that can last months or years—and causes neurological changes that can be detected on an MRI. Find out more about complicated grief and the effects it can have on your sleep and circadian rhythms.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep... Annotated

By Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A. on August 02, 2015 in Just Listen
Now I lay me down to sleep, At the end of the day this is about not doing another thing before you fall asleep. It's about letting go of control with the hope that a good night's sleep will replenish your mind (with everything that the stresses of the day has taken away), will refresh it and enable you to "reboot" it to take on the next day playing with a

Getting Up and Hitting the Road Feeling Good

Becasue you feel better, you operate better.

New developments in sleep and development

By Patrick McNamara Ph.D. on July 18, 2015 in Dream Catcher
in order to understand functions of sleep we need to study the ways in which it develops in the child

How Does Your Circadian Clock Keep Track of the Seasons?

Until now, the specific neurobiology of how our circadian clocks keep track of the seasons has been a mystery. Recently, researchers identified how circadian rhythms synchronize with the seasons. These findings could lead to new treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and insomnia.

12 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Dreams, Answered

By Patrick McNamara Ph.D. on June 14, 2015 in Dream Catcher
What is the current scientific consensus concerning dreams?

Do Prescription Sleep Medications Cause Sleepwalking?

Although many people think that sedative-hypnotic sleep aids often cause sleepwalking, this adverse effect is rare.

How to Fix Broken Sleep

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on June 01, 2015 in Think, Act, Be
What works for insomnia might surprise you--and your doctor.