If You Want To Fix Insomnia, First Understand It

by Brianna Wiest
Laurence Dutton/E+/Getty Images

Many people have experienced the draining sensation of insomnia, and can likely attest that there are few things more anxiety-inducing than not being able to get yourself to sleep, especially when you know that in just a few hours, you're expected to be up and functioning as normal. There are so many reasons why people experience insomnia: between an overconsumption of caffeine to napping too much during the day to simply not doing enough or expending enough energy during their waking hours, in modern life, there are countless variables that interfere with our natural functions. The American Psychological Association explains that sleep disorders/disturbances can comprise a range of problems, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, jet-lag syndrome, and disturbed biological and circadian rhythms.

Up to 40 percent of adults report at least occasional difficulty sleeping, and the National Institutes of Health reports that chronic and severe forms of insomnia affects between 10 to 15 percent of adults. Even small disruptions in sleep can wreak havoc on human safety and performance. Estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that drowsy or fatigued driving leads to more than 100,000 motor vehicle crashes per year.

They report that utilizing behavioral therapy — or other psychological practices — helps with insomnia because it reduces anxiety. (For example, they cite people being able to sleep better when they don't get upset thinking there is something fundamentally or worse, fatally, wrong with them for not being able to sleep.) It's clear that there's a correlation between emotional anxiety and mental health, and that mental health has a bearing on our physical functions.

Yet, there is another side to insomnia that many people recognize, and fewer understand. In small doses, insomnia is not always a bad thing. In fact, it may serve a crucial purpose. As the APA points out, while eight hours (give or take) of sleep each night is ideal, it is not necessarily required every single night, and putting that kind of stress on yourself will only result in even less sleep.

On those "off nights," we may need to be cognizant of what our insomnia is trying to communicate to us. In the video below, The School of Life explains that our brains often keep us awake when there is something that we need to process, recognize or think about. When we suppress or reject thoughts and emotions during the day, they don't always go away (and this is a good thing). They bubble back up to the surface of our consciousness when there is something crucial that we need to learn. Check out the rest of the video, and learn why coping with your lack of sleep may just be learning to embrace it, and listen.

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Images: Laurence Dutton/E+/Getty Images; Giphy