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

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.
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Trauma and Sleep I

By John Cline Ph.D. on June 28, 2016 in Sleepless in America
Psychological trauma has been an unfortunately common aspect of human history. One of the major impacts of trauma is the disruption of sleep.

One Easy Way to Get Better Sleep

If you are having difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, and/or sleeping well, here is one easy thing you can do to get some relief.

7 Myths About Concussions

Despite ongoing controversies over head injuries in athletes, misconceptions regarding concussions persist–which can prevent players from getting appropriate treatment.

You Know You Need More Sleep, This May Be the Way to Get It

Experts say we’re all sleep deprived, but it’s possible that those experts are creating the very deprivation they’re trying to prevent.

The Economics of Treating Insomnia

By Michael J Breus Ph.D. on June 02, 2016 in Sleep Newzzz
Insomnia costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion a year, stemming largely from increased health-care reliance, lost productivity, and more frequent injuries and accidents.

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 Tips to Stop Overthinking

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.