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

6 Ways That Tricks for Falling Asleep Can Backfire

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on March 13, 2017 in Think, Act, Be
Chronic sleep problems can be demoralizing. What are the potential downsides of tricks for falling asleep? And what's the best way to beat insomnia?

8 Ways CBT Can Improve Your Relationship

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on March 06, 2017 in Think, Act, Be
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help your relationship in many ways—even when the treatment isn't specifically about your relationship. Find out how to start using CBT today.

Are You Suffering From Caregiver Fatigue or Burnout?

Do you have any time or energy left in the day to take care of YOU?

Can You Improve Adult ADHD Without Medications?

Do you have Adult ADHD? Are there non-medication treatments? Have you tried medications but experience too many side effects or only partial benefit?

SHUTi: A New Insomnia Treatment Via the Internet

SHUTi, a promising new Internet-based therapy for treating insomnia, is offering hope to people who can't find or afford a therapist, and don't want to take medication.

Taking Melatonin but Still Can't Sleep?

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on February 08, 2017 in Think, Act, Be
Understanding the role of melatonin in sleep helps explain its limited usefulness in relieving insomnia.

Sleep Disturbances Have Many Causes

Is chronic insomnia wearing you down? Learning about different kinds of sleep problems and their causes may help you find a more effective treatment.

Are Your Circadian Rhythms Out of Whack? Try Pitching a Tent

By Christopher Bergland on February 02, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
Spending the weekend on a camping trip with minimal artificial light exposure and an abundance of natural light can reset your internal circadian clock, according to a new study.
unsplash.com/pexels.com

Treating Insomnia Part II - Sleep in the Elderly

Getting back to sleep seems daunting to many. It should not be.

Anxiety Treatment: Should You Be Wary of Anxiety Medication?

Feeling anxious? There's lots of ways to ease the jitters, but be wary of some of them!
Quick and Dirty Tips

5 Myths About Insomnia to Help You Sleep Tonight

Can't sleep? Groggy mornings? Get back on track with 5 myth-busting tips that will help you get your best night's sleep.

Late-Night Smartphone Use Often Fuels Daytime Somnambulism

By Christopher Bergland on January 18, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
A growing body of research offers compelling evidence that late-night smartphone use can trigger sleep disturbances linked to subpar daytime performance, depression, and anxiety.

A Cheap New Wonder Drug?

By Eric Haseltine Ph.D. on January 13, 2017 in Long Fuse, Big Bang
A one-time purchase might improve your health for life.

Treating Insomnia Without Using Prescription Medications

Are you taking a sleep aid that no longer works or is causing side effects? Many non-medication approaches can help you get the sleep you need avoiding prescription drugs.
Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

5 Relaxation Techniques for Better Sleep

By Michael J Breus Ph.D. on January 01, 2017 in Sleep Newzzz
Has the New Year already started to stress you out? New diets, exercise and wellness routines, making you nuts?

Your Teen Has Suicidal Thoughts—How Worried Should You Be?

By Temma Ehrenfeld on December 27, 2016 in Open Gently
Insomnia and loss of appetite are warning signs.
Open source No Copyright

5 Essential Strategies for Insomnia

Insomnia and mania will both respond to these natural solutions.

Insomnia Treatment in Your Home

Will apps zap insomnia?

Sleepless and Depressed? CBT-I Can Help.

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on October 26, 2016 in Think, Act, Be
Am I depressed because I can't sleep? Or is my insomnia causing depression? Research studies have answered these and other questions.
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Secrets of Napping

By John Cline Ph.D. on September 27, 2016 in Sleepless in America
Naps can improve alertness and productivity without needing to use energy drinks to get through the day. Proper timing and correct duration are the secrets to successful napping.
David Mao/unsplash.com/pexels.com

5 Simple Ways to Get Better Sleep

By Matthew J. Edlund M.D. on September 17, 2016 in Getting Healthy Now
America is increasingly sleepless, but there are ways to improve the number of restful nights you have.
(Image by Randi Hutter Epstein): My Sleep Deprived Twins, Joey & Martha, circa 1997

Here's What a Bad Night's Sleep Really Does to Your Brain

Did you know lack of sleep shrinks a tiny brain gland? But there is a way to reverse it.

Fear of Sudden Infant Death

By Fredric Neuman M.D. on September 06, 2016 in Fighting Fear
An example of the treatment of an exaggerated fear—of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Surprisingly, the very quick cure of this fear was followed by a lessening of other fears.

Helping College Students Manage Sleep Issues

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on September 06, 2016 in Think, Act, Be
If you're heading back to college this fall, it's worth focusing on getting adequate sleep.

The Drug Free Way to Sleep Soundly

By Clifford N Lazarus Ph.D. on August 12, 2016 in Think Well
Here's a surprisingly simple way to beat insomnia without the use of drugs or supplements.
Jen Gallardo, flickr

5 Tips to Deal With Insomnia

By Gretchen Rubin on July 26, 2016 in The Happiness Project
I violated one of the most basic back-to-sleep tips — the tip to get up, rather than toss and turn.
Joshua/unsplash.com/pexels.com

When You Can't Sleep

Insufficient sleep afflicts more and more of us - but there are better ways to fix it.

These 5 Foods and Substances Can Cause Anxiety and Insomnia

By Georgia Ede MD on July 07, 2016 in Diagnosis: Diet
Get to the root of your anxiety and sleep problems once and for all. Learn the fascinating ways in which certain everyday foods shift your nervous system into overdrive.
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Trauma and Sleep: Treatment

By John Cline Ph.D. on June 30, 2016 in Sleepless in America
People who have suffered trauma often experience sleep problems. Treating sleep disorder such as nightmares and insomnia can help facilitate the treatment of trauma related stress.