How do I stop my insomnia?

Q:  I am a 17 year old student with trouble sleeping.  I don’t know if I have insomnia, I just know that I wake up too early and also have serious problems falling asleep.   I average about 6 hours of sleep but would like 8 or 9.  I can usually fall asleep in one of the 8 naps I attempt to take in the afternoon, but when I try to sleep at night it usually takes me at least an hour or more.  I don’t know what to think to make myself fall asleep.

A:  First, you are right about 8 or 9 hours being a good target for someone your age.  It’s also important to understand that two key internal processes control sleep — circadian rhythm and sleep drive.

You can regulate your circadian rhythm and synchronize it to your sleep drive by trying to get up in the morning at the same time every day.  That’s important.  Try for consistency 7 days a week as much as possible.  Determine your bed time by allowing at least 8 or 9 hours for sleep, and try to stick to that schedule.  Doing this consistently will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

We suggest you drop all the naps, they are likely reducing your sleep drive and contributing to your sleep anxiety.  If you feel a strong desire to nap, consider allowing only one nap for a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes and then only in the early afternoon if necessary.  Taking no naps will help protect your sleep drive for later that night and enable you to more easily fall asleep when you want.

There are many other good sleep supportive lifestyle habits to cultivate as well.  Daily exercise, exposure to bright light early in the day, a relaxing pre-bed routine are all important practices, as is restricting any consumption of caffeine in any form, including chocolate and colas, for at least 6 hours prior to bed.

As for what to think, really great question.  Try deep diaphragmatic breathing combined with progressive muscle relaxation.  Basically just relax and go with the flow.  Let yourself be drowsy in bed even if not sleeping.  Sleep comes from that drowsy feeling.

Try these simple ideas first, they may be all you need to help restore better sleep.  If you need more, check out CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) specifically designed for sleep.  A good CBT-based sleep training program includes all these ideas plus much more, and is a drug-free, all natural way to sleep better permanently.

You’re entering a very exciting time in life, one that promises much new growth but also some anxiety.  That’s normal to expect.  Be confident that by leading a healthy lifestyle that supports good sleep, you will be at your best.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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