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 officially suffering from insomnia. Approximately 50 to 70 million Americans have a sleep or wakefulness disorder, 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

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How Melatonin Helps You Sleep

By Michael J Breus Ph.D. on September 15, 2017 in Sleep Newzzz
Learn all about how melatonin can help sleep and bio time.
Lane Erickson/Dreamstime Stock Photos

A Sleep Pioneer’s Labor of Love

By Kathleen Frazier on September 09, 2017 in From Sleepwalker to Sound Sleeper
Afraid to seek help for a sleep disorder? Find a great sleep physician.

Exercise and Its Benefits for Sleep

By Michael J Breus Ph.D. on September 06, 2017 in Sleep Newzzz
Making exercise part of your regular routine can contribute to healthier, more restful sleep—and may help improve sleep issues such as insomnia.

What You Need to Know About L-theanine

By Michael J Breus Ph.D. on August 29, 2017 in Sleep Newzzz
Are you looking for ways to sleep better at night while also feeling relaxed during the day?

Four Ways to More Restful Sleep

A few simple steps can pave the way to consistently refreshing sleep. A tranquil bedroom arranged for the senses, and a consistent routine are the key.

On Your Adolescents Getting Up in the Morning

It's hard for adolescents to get up in the morning, especially if they suffer from depression and other mental illnesses. What tips can we get from published research?

Mold Toxicity: A Common Cause of Psychiatric Symptoms

By Judy Tsafrir M.D. on August 03, 2017 in Holistic Psychiatry
Could your depression, anxiety, brain fog and insomnia be due to toxic mold? This is a very treatable condition, but first you must recognize that mold toxicity is the cause.

In Pain? Five Simple, Effective Things You Can Do Right Now

Struggling with chronic pain? It's linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Here are five simple, low-cost therapies can help you start feeling better.

How to Address 7 of the Most Unhelpful Beliefs About Sleep

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on July 10, 2017 in Think, Act, Be
Bad sleep opens the door for thoughts that only make sleep worse. Find out what some of the most troubling thoughts are, and how to fix them.
"Yin and Yang" by Klem - This vector image was created with Inkscape by Klem, and then manually edited by Mnmazur.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons a/File:Yin_and_Yang.svg

Treatment of Insomnia: Cannabis Reconsidered Part 4

By John Cline Ph.D. on June 30, 2017 in Sleepless in America
While many patients are using medical cannabis to treat insomnia, and research progress is being made, there is much that needs to be done to insure efficacy and safety.
"Yin and Yang" by Klem - This vector image was created with Inkscape by Klem, and then manually edited by Mnmazur.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons a/File:Yin_and_Yang.svg

Treatment of Insomnia: Cannabis Reconsidered, Part Three

By John Cline Ph.D. on June 30, 2017 in Sleepless in America
Increasing numbers of patients are using medical marijuana for treatment of their insomnia. Patients need reliable information about what it does and how it works.
Laura Arredondo Hernandez/Dreamstime Stock Photos

Freedom From Sleep Disorders This Independence Day

By Kathleen Frazier on June 29, 2017 in From Sleepwalker to Sound Sleeper
Is it possible to free yourself from debilitating insomnia? What about terrifying sleepwalking or sleep terrors? Peaceful slumber is possible, one night at a time.

The Importance of Sleep: The Brain's Laundry Cycle

By Jean Kim M.D. on June 28, 2017 in Culture Shrink
Evidence shows sleep washes and repairs the brain and maintains our health; as a society we shouldn't neglect the importance of sleep hygiene.
By Cannabis Training University (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0

Treatment of Insomnia: Cannabis Reconsidered Part 2

By John Cline Ph.D. on June 28, 2017 in Sleepless in America
Cannabis is being increasingly used for its medicinal and psychotherapeutic potential. Does it have the properties necessary to be an effective treatment for insomnia?

A Mindful Evening

Do you have trouble winding down at night? These brief meditations can ease you into a more restful space.
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Change, Little Bit by Little Bit

Large changes start small. Sometimes they stay that way.

Having a Hard Time Sleeping? Do Nothing!

Do you toss and turn in bed? Can’t get to sleep (or go back to sleep) no matter what you do? New research suggests there may be a path forward, and it isn’t what you think…

Fatigue, the Brain and Therapists

By Jenni Ogden Ph.D. on April 26, 2017 in Trouble in Mind
Studies have found that debilitating fatigue is a common symptom of many types of brain damage and disorders, from mild head injury to benign pituitary adenoma to dementia.

Need a Midday Energy Boost? Skip the Caffeine, Take a Walk

Brief bouts of low-to-moderate intensity physical activity are more energizing than a 50 mg dose of caffeine (such as a can of soda or shot of espresso), according to a new study.

How to Calm Your Restless Nights

We know sleeplessness is "all in our head," but here's how you can put your head to bed.

8 Easy Strategies to Combat Insomnia

There are simple things you can do, both behaviorally, and in your head, that can lead to satisfying and restful sleep.
By Cannabis Training University (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Treatment of Insomnia: Cannabis Reconsidered

By John Cline Ph.D. on March 31, 2017 in Sleepless in America
Recently, as attitudes and laws about the use of cannabis have dramatically changed, new research and new programs are clarifying its potential medical and psychotherapeutic use.

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?

By Scott Shapiro M.D. on February 27, 2017 in The Best Strategies For Managing Adult ADHD
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

By Dale Archer M.D. on February 10, 2017 in Reading Between the (Head)Lines
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.