Insomnia or trouble falling asleep or staying asleep is a very common problem affecting millions of people worldwide. It can affect children, teenagers, and younger and older adults; no age group is immune. Sometimes insomnia is a symptom of conditions like anxiety or depression and other times it is the primary problem. Many factors can interfere with our ability to get to sleep and/or stay asleep. These factors include: room temperature, noise, caffeine, alcohol and other drugs, working nights, irregular sleep schedules, traveling between time zones, stress, anxiety, and depression. If you have been having trouble sleeping for an extended period of time then you likely have been experiencing fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, irritability, increased emotional sensitivity and somatic complaints.
How do I know if I have a sleep problem? Generally, if it takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep then you have insomnia. If you awake more than once during the night and it takes you more than a few minutes to return to sleep that too is insomnia. Even if you are not having insomnia you may not be getting enough sleep. Adults need close to 8 hours of sleep per night and children need much more (11 hours at age 5 and still 10 hours by age 12) for their emotional and physical well-being.
If you are having problems with insomnia or you are getting insufficient sleep then a first corrective step is to make sure you are practicing good sleep hygiene. Ideally, what promotes good sleep is maximizing the amount of time spent in bed sleeping and minimizing time spent in other activities, worrying, doing homework, and especially those that stimulate your brain or keep you aroused such as using a computer or similar electronic devise. If reading or listening to relaxing music or doing relaxation exercises helps you to get tired and fall asleep then doing those things in your bed may help. But if you are having insomnia, it is better to do those restful activities somewhere other than your bed.