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.

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Recent Posts on Insomnia

Interminable Terminal Insomnia, Part II

By Michael Terman Ph.D. on January 10, 2016 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 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 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 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 Think, Act, Be
For better sleep, banish beeping and buzzing from the bedroom.

Sleep Loss Disrupts Emotional Balance via the Amygdala

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By Temma Ehrenfeld on October 06, 2015 Open Gently
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By Mark Borigini M.D. on September 28, 2015 Overcoming Pain
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By Michael Terman Ph.D. on August 11, 2015 Chronotherapy
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Becasue you feel better, you operate better.

New developments in sleep and development

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How Does Your Circadian Clock Keep Track of the Seasons?

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Why We Wake Up in the Middle of the Night (and Why It's OK)

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My interview w/Clark Strand, senior editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and author of, "Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age."

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By Mark Matousek on May 11, 2015 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.

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

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 Lee Johnson J.D. on March 16, 2015 So Sue Me
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Valerian for Sleep and Weaning Off Anxiety Medications

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 Sleep Newzzz
Many scientists studying sleep and dreams believe that dreaming does have a purpose.

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.