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

Not Sleeping?

Rolling around in bed thinking a mile a minute when you want to be sleeping isn’t fun. Sometimes a simple mindfulness routine can turn down the tensions and send you into dreamland.

Clark Strand: Are you addicted to light?

By Jennifer Haupt on May 21, 2015 in One True Thing
Waking up to the dark was viewed as a nightly blessing before the introduction of artificial light. That restless dread so many of us feel in the middle of the night is a byproduct of our artificially lengthened days and the amount of wattage we've taken in through information, advertising, news alerts, and actual light.

Waking Up To the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age

By Mark Matousek on May 11, 2015 in Ethical Wisdom
Clark Strand's brilliant new book, Waking Up To the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age is a life-changer. Most of us have little to no idea what a transformative -- sometimes damaging -- effect the incandescent life bulb has had on human life. We've lost the healing, and spiritual, power of darkness -- to say nothing of our natural sleep patterns.

How Do Sleeplessness and Insomnia Sabotage Decision Making?

New research reveals how sleeplessness can thwart your ability to make astute decisions.

Ambushed by Eldercare? You’re Not Alone

How to handle the multiple challenges of eldercare.

Sexism in Mental Health Practice

Misogyny in the mental health system warrants special attention during Women's History Month.

The Hidden Horrors of Jury Duty

By Ruth Sarah Lee J.D. on March 16, 2015 in So Sue Me
Jury duty may be much worse than a mere inconvenience.

The House of Cards Characters Have Terrible Sleep Hygiene

By Jordan Gaines Lewis on March 06, 2015 in Brain Babble
If Frank Underwood has trouble sleeping, it's not because of his conscience. Here's why the House of Cards characters have terrible sleep hygiene.

Valerian for Sleep and Weaning Off Anxiety Medications

By Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc on March 05, 2015 in Inner Source
Which herb may be the best for sleep, and also help avoid withdrawal from anti-anxiety drugs?

Feeling Paranoid?

Paranoid fears are common and have a variety of causes but new research shows specific issue cognitive behaviour therapy can bring significant benefits

Why Do We Dream?

By Michael J Breus Ph.D. on February 13, 2015 in Sleep Newzzz
Many scientists studying sleep and dreams believe that dreaming does have a purpose.


By Gayle Greene PhD on February 12, 2015 in Insomniac
I did not grow up with any sense of being Jewish. But this incident made me wonder, do we carry history around in our DNA, not just our personal pasts but the history of our kind.

Teens and Stress: Practical Coping Skills

We all experience stress at some point in our lives. No matter your age, gender, ethnicity, or cultural background, stress can cause you to feel over-emotional or lead to health difficulties. Therefore, it is important to recognize when you become stress and to find ways to cope with your stress to prevent further difficulties.

Sleep, as We Get Older

By John Cline Ph.D. on December 29, 2014 in Sleepless in America
With advancing age there are changes in sleep pattern, sleep quantity and sleep quality. Sleep remains important for good health throughout our lives and understanding how these changes affect the sleep of older individuals can help people to maximize the quality and quantity of their sleep and thus their health.

Does Your Child Have a Mental Disorder?

By Eric R. Maisel Ph.D. on December 08, 2014 in Rethinking Psychology
The nine questions that parents should ask themselves and others before agreeing with a "professional diagnosis" that their child has a "mental disorder."

Up & Away: Jet Lag Upset, Ugh! Jet Lag Solution, Whew!

By Michael Terman Ph.D. on November 29, 2014 in Chronotherapy
Flying away may be your fantasy: the excitement of a fresh environment, relief from stress, the escape from bad weather and the blues. Or you just have to travel for work, and would rather be home. The challenge either way is jet lag, with disrupted sleep and concentration, and physical distress. The brain's inner clock holds the explanation, and is key to the solution.

Sleeping Disorders Deconstructed

In the case of sleep disorders, there are over 80 on the horizon, wreaking havoc on handfuls of tired eyes.

How Mindfulness at Work Improves Your Sleep

By Linda Wasmer Andrews on November 24, 2014 in Minding the Body
Mindfulness at work may improve your sleep many hours later. But how? One key is your ability to detach from work at home.

Genetic Testing for Kids With Mental Health Disorders?

If medical professionals are going to treat your heart disease, or your teen's bipolar disorder, with medications that won’t help and may even hurt, then they're not doing the job they signed up for. That's where genotyping can help.

Chasing Away Insomnia With a Bowl of Oatmeal

Carbohydrates will allow more restorative sleep.

Mind-body Therapies to Ease Insomnia

By Michael J Breus Ph.D. on November 06, 2014 in Sleep Newzzz
If you are suffering from insomnia, meditation and Tai Chi may improve your symptoms, including overall sleep quality.

How Do You Regulate Emotions Under Stress?

External regulation of emotions is a no-win venture, even if you go about it through seduction rather than coercion. It’s just too hard to regulate an internal system by controlling external conditions. That’s like a thermostat trying to keep it comfortable in the room by blowing warm or cool air around the outside perimeter of the building.

Training A Seven-Month-Old To Sleep

By Dennis Rosen M.D. on October 14, 2014 in Sleeping Angels
"My 6.5-month-old son is not sleeping normally. What form of sleep training is suitable for my son?"

Improve Your Sleep, Improve Your Life

By Bill Knaus Ed.D. on October 12, 2014 in Science and Sensibility
Can better sleep patterns increase your chances for health and longevity?

Sleeping Thrills

By Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. on October 09, 2014 in In Excess
Sexsomnia is a condition that is highly prevalent among sleepwalkers and is where people engage in sexual acts while still asleep and can include masturbating and fondling of either themselves or others, or oral sex and sexual intercourse with another person. But what psychological research has been carried out on the topic?

Sleep and the Placebo Effect

By John Cline Ph.D. on September 30, 2014 in Sleepless in America
It is often difficult to show that a new treatment is any more effective than a placebo. This may be because the placebo effect is actually the marshaling of bodily resources brought about by psychological processes. The placebo effect shows that the mind/body system is capable of self-healing. It also turns out that thinking your sleep is good helps you function better.

Restless Legs Syndrome

By John Cline Ph.D. on September 29, 2014 in Sleepless in America
Restless Legs Syndrome may affect as much as 10% of the population and significantly contribute to poor sleep. Fortunately. there are a number of behavioral and pharmacological treatments available.

The Desert, Sleep, and the Mystical Experience

By John Cline Ph.D. on September 25, 2014 in Sleepless in America
A recent trip to the high desert of the United States got me to think about the ways in which this challenging environment and the harsh ways of life there, including the potential for significant sleep loss, contribute to the occurrence of non-oridinary states of consciousness.

How Not To Talk To Someone Dying Of Cancer

By Allen J Frances M.D. on September 20, 2014 in Saving Normal
We over-train our doctors on the overvalued technical aspects of medicine and undertrain them in the undervalued relational skills that have always been at the heart of healing.

Treating the Ailing Doctor-Patient Relationship

By Allen J Frances M.D. on September 14, 2014 in Saving Normal
Modern medicine places too much focus on lab results, too little on the person; and too much reliance on hyped medical magic, too little on Hippocratic human caring. Patients want and aren't getting more than just pills from their doctors. As Hippocrates put it 2500 years ago: "It is just as important to know the patient who has the disease as the disease the patient has."