I’m 15 and think I have insomnia. Should I take sleeping pills?

Q:  I’m 15 and I think I may have insomnia.  Sleep is a struggle for me, and it has been for many months now.  Even though I usually go to bed about 10 p.m., I often don’t fall asleep until about 3 a.m. no matter how hard I try.  Should I take sleeping pills?

A:  Most people go through times of sleeplessness for a variety of reasons, often having to do with stress.  Usually the stressful problem resolves or we adapt to it in some  way, and normal sleep returns.  But if this has been worrying you for many months now, then a checkup with your doctor is probably a good idea.  This will allow you to either treat or rule out the possibility of an underlying medical basis for your insomnia.

But don’t be surprised if you have none.  Most people with insomnia don’t.

Most insomnia is caused instead by some nonmedical combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about the idea of sleep.  If that’s the case with you, then sleeping pills won’t help.  Pills unnaturally force you to sleep — and they all have at least some side effects, possibly severe —  and leave the true root of the problem unaddressed.

You might try some basic CBT sleep training methods.  These include keeping a consistent sleep schedule 7 days a week.  Especially important is a consistent wake time.  Avoid napping or sleeping in, as these will in effect steal sleep from you at night.

Also avoid caffeine in any form (including colas and chocolate) after about mid-day.  Be sure to get some good exercise most days.  Basically, make an effort to tire yourself out both mentally and physically every day, and you will tend to naturally sleep better at night.

And rest assured it’s OK to let go the worry about sleep, which only tends to fuel insomnia.  “Trying” to sleep may be part of the problem — sleep really is more of a process of letting go, not a frontal assault.

If worry about sleep continues to be a problem, look into cognitive restructuring, another of the CBT core methods.  Like all CBT tools, it is completely drug-free and has no side effects.

Good luck and be confident you can sleep better without drugs.

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

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