How I Cured My Chronic Insomnia

by | Feb 20, 2013
Photo by Alyssa L. Miller

Photo by Alyssa L. Miller

I don’t use the term chronic insomnia lightly. Have you ever heard of a kid who fakes naps during preschool just to placate the teacher? That was me.

Despite my parents letting me stay up to 9-10pm when I was 8-years old—way later than most of my peers (thank you Dad, you rock!)—I inevitably drove them crazy by waking up at the crack of dawn (literally) on weekends ready to kick off the day.

In high school I averaged maybe 5 hours of sleep a night. Even today I rely on the occasional Ambien to make sure I sleep through a flight or get enough rest the night before an important event.

My insomnia is multifaceted. I have trouble falling asleep because I am very sensitive to light (sometimes I joke that I have invisible eyelids). I’m also very sensitive to sounds and have difficulty getting comfortable.

Once I’m asleep, it’s also way too easy to wake me up. And once I wake up, falling back asleep in less than two hours is nearly impossible. I wake up at any hint of light entering the room, or any abnormal noise.

I’ve tried melatonin, tryptophan, St. John’s wort, camomile, kava kava and antihistamines. Most of them just make me extra miserable because I get groggy and drowsy, but still can’t fall asleep. Ambien has been the only prescription sleep aid that works for me without major side effects, but it is not for everyone and I certainly did not want to rely on it for my day-to-day sleep hygiene.

But with a combination of these techniques, I’ve been able to control my insomniac tendencies and boost my sleep to a solid seven hours a night.

9 Tips To Cure Insomnia

1. Get on a consistent sleeping schedule

This one is probably the most important. The circadian rhythms that control your sleep-wake cycle originate in a part of your brain called the hypothalamus (specifically the suprachiasmatic nucleus, for you neuroscience geeks).

These neurons are sensitive to light and work to sync your biological clock to regular light-dark hours. The more consistent these are, the stronger your body will respond to natural circadian rhythms and the easier it will be to fall asleep when you’re supposed to.

2. No interactive screen time 1 hour before bed

As mentioned above, bright light can impact your circadian rhythms and staring into a computer screen late into the night can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Working and other mental activity can also keep your mind alert and prevent it from relaxing enough to fall asleep.

I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to unplug when you’re a workaholic, but a good night’s sleep does more for my productivity than I could ever achieve in the 12th or 14th hour of my workday, so I’ve learned to disengage well before bedtime.

Though I haven’t had any problems from watching TV or a movie, it’s best to stay away from any devices that require input from you for the last hour before bed. This means you should turn off the computers, smart phones, video games and tablets, no matter how badly you want to level up. Instead, try to quiet your mind by taking a bath, reading a book, having some herbal tea, cleaning up the house, listening to music or practicing meditation.

3. Don’t eat too late

Eating close to bed time, particularly a high-calorie, heavy meal, is associated with poorer sleep quality. I’ve also noticed this in myself, and when I avoid late night eating I get better, more consistent sleep. If you’re hungry, try drinking a glass of water and going to bed on an empty stomach instead. You certainly won’t starve to death.

4. Exercise daily

The best sleep I ever got was when I was marathon training at 5am every weekday before school. I fell asleep like clockwork at 10:30pm every night. It was glorious.

Heavy exercise is certainly a great way to invoke sound sleep, but even moderate activity like walking 10,000 steps each day can make a big difference in sleep quality. If you aren’t sure how much activity you’re getting, a Fitbit pedometer might be a good investment.

5. No caffeine after 1pm

This one was hard for me to believe. I’d been a heavy coffee drinker from a young age, and never thought it affected my sleep one way or another. If I was really tired during finals, coffee never seemed to help much and there were a few times when I fell asleep not too long after having a double espresso.

I’m not sure if I changed or if my sleep cycle was just so messed up that I couldn’t detect relevant differences, but now that I’ve switched to drinking mainly tea I’ve noticed that if I drink any caffeine too late in the day it is harder to fall asleep. I try not to drink coffee after 12pm, but 1pm is sometimes more realistic.

6. Use a white noise machine

My old apartment was just two doors down from a bustling freeway off ramp, and as you can imagine the traffic noise was constant. As someone who is very sensitive to noise, this posed a tremendous problem.

I’ve tried sleeping with ear plugs, but I have small ears and find them very uncomfortable. The solution that works best for me to control noise disturbances is the Sleepmate, a white noise machine that is quiet enough to ignore but drowns out most other ambient noise. This thing is a lifesaver if you’re stuck in a noisy neighborhood.

7. Black out shades or sleep mask

I realized early on that I’m sensitive to even the slightest amount of light in a room, even small ones like a laptop charging light.

If you’ve taken care of all the light sources inside your bedroom but are still bothered by light that sneaks in under the door or through the window, consider getting some black out shades or a sleep mask. The shades work great but can be expensive and kind of ugly. If you go with a mask, I find that the cheaper, less cushy ones are the most comfortable. Mine looks a lot like this one for under $2.

8. Don’t drink too much alcohol

Though a small nightcap can often help me relax and fall asleep faster, too much alcohol is proven to disturb sleep and can cause you to wake up early. If you like to party, keep in mind that it may be impacting your life in more negative ways than you think.

9 . Practice mindfulness

Though light, noise and bad habits all play a role in my sleep problems, I’m convinced that at the root of it all is a wandering mind. These other factors just add levels of distraction to my already overstimulated brain.

In our plugged in world, constant interruptions are making it progressively difficult to keep your attention on a single task long enough to get it done. For me, the nightly task that eludes me is sleep.

Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis (e.g. spending a few seconds a day focusing on my breathing or taking the time to eat a bite of food slowly with my eyes closed) gives me the power to truly relax my mind when I’m trying to fall asleep rather than letting it drift to all the things I need to get done the following day.

Mindfulness isn’t easy, but the only way to get better is through practice. Whenever you’re waiting for an elevator, standing in line, walking up stairs, taking a bite of food, take a few seconds to reflect on where you are and how your body feels. Focus on a few breaths, in and out, and get accustomed to letting go of your worries. The longer you can sustain this practice the easier it will be to let go of your problems and get a good night’s sleep.

What helps you sleep better?

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247 Responses to “How I Cured My Chronic Insomnia”

  1. julie says:

    Melatonin works well for me, though I try not to take it too often. When I drink coffee too late in the day, sometimes I need it, unless I hit the gym and burn off the energy. Going to bed a bit hungry helps. I don’t usually have problems falling asleep (anymore), the problem is staying asleep. If I go to sleep at 11, wake at 2, can’t get back to sleep until 5, have to get up at 6 to get ready for work, I run into problems eventually.

    I feel priviliged to get a 7 hour night, 5-6 is more my norm, and once every month or two, I’ll sleep 10 (usually aided by wine) to recover. Very annoying are those who tell me I should make sure to sleep at least 8 hours a night. Seems like silly outdated science, besides, it’s not happening, unless they’ve got a drug to help that I don’t yet know about.

    A hot bath helps a lot, also. Alcohol generally makes for a bad night sleep, but sometimes wine actually helps (usually not).

  2. Monica says:

    Thanks for dropping knowledge about the SCN. Makes me feel good about staying awake through those long neuro lectures. 😉

  3. Chris says:

    I don’t have insomnia problem but I use the first five of the above tips on a consistent basis for a number of years, so I can vouch it works. I can also suggest if you have sleep problems try breathing exercise (simple inhale and exhale cycle) for 5 to 10 minutes or longer, it helps. Do meditation on a regular basis, even practicing a little bit daily helps.

  4. Justin says:

    I’ve developed a great bad habit before bed time: Watching the same episode of one of my favorite TV shows while in bed. I know the light isn’t great for me, but my biggest problem is calming my mind. When you watch an episode of something you enjoy, but you’ve seen literally hundreds of times, it allows you to focus without being stimulated.

    • Darya Pino says:

      I agree, that’s why I said tv and movies aren’t really a problem. I think it’s when the device requires input from you that it prevents sleep. Also, tv and movies tend to be much darker light than laptops and video games.

  5. Alice says:

    Earthing has helped me sleep tremendously better in the past 6 months. I got an earthing pad for our bed ( upon the recommendation of my naturopath. Wow – I sleep so much better. My quality of sleep is improved, I wake up feeling more refreshed. (No, I don’t work for this company, but I’m now a big proponent of earthing because it’s helped me a lot, not only with sleeping but with some chronic pain reduction.)

  6. Leslie says:

    Here’s the Amazon listing to the air purifier I use in my bedroom. We’ve had this model in our house in different rooms for years. My sister has worked for an allergy company and she suggested this one to us. The pre-filter can be found for $10ish (you cut it into 2) which will last six months. Some purifiers have expensive filters so that’s why I like this one. I run the machine on the middle setting and that gives me the sound I like during the night. On the plus side it sucks in air and traps dust! When we are away from home I try and tire myself out all day long because I really miss the sound of my purifier!

  7. duane marcus says:

    I have had trouble with waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep. I assumed that was the reason i was tired by the middle of the afternoon. I recently learned I had an iodine deficiency which prevented my thyroid gland from functioning properly. The thyroid also affects the function of the adrenal glands which control sleep cycles.
    I have been taking iodine supplements and adrenal support for 2 weeks and now i sleep through the night and have energy all day.
    The change is remarkable!

    • Hollis Harreld says:

      I am convinced that my very stressful life is taxing my adrenals. I would grateful to get more information about what you are doing to support your adrenals and getting better sleep.
      Thank you,

  8. lo says:

    I’ve been a chronic insomniac myself and can relate to a lot of your points (starting with not taking it lightly: nothing more annoying than people who think this is just a thing you make up, or that their occasional bad night can be labelled as “insomnia”).

    A few things should be mentioned though:

    – Be careful with tea, as depending on the tea you drink it may actually contain the same levels of caffeine as a cup of coffee (some variants, more popular in some countries than others actually do not contain any bound caffeine or theanine. They aren’t really tea, but it’s the common name).

    – Screens are bad, whether you are actively interacting or not, though you are right that being active is worse (as it obviously keeps your mind going than when you stare at it with a blank face). And some screens are worse than others, depending on type (cathodic, LCD, LED…) and settings. Be sure to dim the brightness as much as possible, and turn contrast higher to still be able to correctly see (I work with computers more than 16hours a day on average, and I actually set my screens, TVs included, to 0 to 15% brightness and a 60 to 75% contrast). Be sure to set a refresh rate that won’t make your eyes drier. Make sure to take breaks and force yourself to look at something else every now and then (which also helps to preserve your eye sight, coincidentally, as it will force your eye to re-focus temporarily on something else).

    – Meditation helps, if your problem is more mind related. My most troubled period with sleep was in high-school, though I didn’t feel like it related to my life in general. However, I found out that practising a few mental exercises that take my mind off of other things can help. Can be simple things like picturing a relatively simple object and trying to detail all its parts one by one. The problem for me with this is that it gets close to some aspects of my daily work and sometimes allows my mind to shift back to it, which is the opposite effect… Reading a book helps, as long as it’s not something too serious and that makes you think, and not something adrenaline packed that will make you want to keep going.
    Doing menial tasks is also a good cleanser, as long as they don’t frustrate and make you angry (don’t do your taxes before bed…). But sorting out papers on your home desk works, or even preparing a batch of laundry for the morning or doing the dishes.

    – Exercise. Don’t do anything competitive or too straining (or adrenaline will keep you awake: could never sleep at all after a football game and always showed up tired at school on Mondays), but do a light exercise will tire you a bit and it’s also a good mind cleanser. Exercise, bath, read a bit and lights off works relatively well for me.

    – Pitch black darkness is indeed important for me, but some people really dislike the disorientation feeling you might get when you make up from a nightmare or even in the morning. For me, it helps to keep me asleep longer (on the other hand, if I know I’ll need to get up in the morning, I don’t close my shades)

  9. lo says:

    (Obviously, to everyone their own: these may not work for everybody, and you need to know what’s best for you. It took me years to refine the best process to put myself to sleep, so I wouldn’t pretend it necessarily applies to others.)

  10. duane marcus says:

    Here is another take on this problem I just saw today. Grounding oneself.

  11. lo says:

    Duane, the earthing approach is interesting to consider. Never really considered the impact of static electricity for instance (wonder if there’s any tangible research on this).

    That reminded me of other things:
    – wear very light and soft clothes to sleep
    – make sure to have the right temperature in the room
    – make sure to have good natural ventilation in the room and open the window for a good 5 minutes before going to sleep
    – take off your watch! That one might sound silly, but that was recommended to me as a kid and actually seemed to help: watches (or jewellry, I guess, but watches were probably back then more common and heavy and a general case, whereas nowadays more and more people just use their mobile phones and don’t have a watch, interestingly) can add pressure to your arm and trouble your circulation, if ever so slightly.

    Other people care about aligning your bed and body based on cardinal points. Never did much for me, don’t know either if there’s substantial research on that.

  12. Frank Matthews says:

    I agree with everything but what I am doing and what I should do are miles apart. Lack of good sleep? If I listen to the radio, comedy morning shows I am associated with. I dream of being in the corner of the studio watching. Last night? My Brother which I no longer talk to and my long lost(dead) Mother brought home three penguins! Back to a house I have never been. The penguins kept attacking me. Longer story but, I can’t sleep like that. The light the TV The Radio all make since. But Stubbornness keeps me from cutting out.

  13. IPBrian says:

    We share many of the same problems sadly. I myself have found:

    1) No Caffeine After Noon
    2) Limited Alcohol
    3) No interactive Screens
    4) Limiting Fluid Intake

    …all seem to help. I also use foam earplugs when in noisy situations (aka traveling) and might look into the black out shade suggestion!

  14. m says:

    “I’d been a heavy coffee drinker from a young age, and never thought it effected my sleep one way or another.”

    With rare exception, “affect” is the verb, “effect” is the noun. I’d love to edit some of your blog, if only because I find it a wonderful resource. Thanks.

  15. I would love to include your tips on my blog. I am currently collecting information like this before I launch. I will include a link to your site along with your article. The link to submit your story is included. Thank you and great info!

  16. duane marcus says:

    Hi Darya,
    I found this site which has links to research on Earthing. I thought you might find it interesting. I don’t have access to the sites where most of the research is found.
    Keep on Growing,

  17. I compete at olympic weightlifting and on heavy training days I always end up having a great sleep later that night. I am guilty of needing a tv to watch to help me fall asleep though

  18. I have the exact opposite problem. I sleep too much and I’m sleepy at just about any time of day.
    Working right after lunch is a pain.
    If I didn’t have any plans, or if I didn’t feel guilty about missing most of day, I would easily sleep 12h+ a day.

    I feel really bad and this is a problem no one talks about, it’s always how people can’t sleep. I feel there’s all these things to do in a day, but I mostly feel miserably tired. 🙁

    • Iggy says:

      Hi Fernanda the first time I heard about this problem was in the video based on Luise Hay’s book
      You can watch the video on utube and check for Hay’s affirmation for the situation I am sure u can find them easily on internet
      here is the link

    • Alice says:

      But….Do yo go to sleep early every night? or Do you feel sleepy during the day and can’t sleep during the night? If you fall as sleep at 10 pm and can’t wake up early because you want to sleep more..that’s weird. The majority of people with sleep problems can’t sleep during the night, but they feel so tired so tired during the morning and wish they could sleep during the day. I think your confuse, you just can’t sleep well during the night and that’s why you want to keep sleeping all the time. Also go to the doctor and get check for hypothyroidism.

      • Fernanda says:

        Thats’s the thing. I try to go to bed at 23h everynight. I absolutely pass out when I do and don’t open my eyes until it’s morning. Still it’s teribly hard to wake up and I feel tired through most of the day. Once this past holiday season I slept for 12 hours straight, woke up, had breakfast, and slept again for about 2hs.
        I’ve recently been to the doctors and got a detailed blood work to see if I’m missing any nutrients, but I haven’t gone back to the doctors to see what she thinks.

    • Ray says:

      I used to suffer the same symptoms.
      Get a blood test for thyroid function today.
      30% of people have a thyroid problem.
      Don’t be in denial like me and suffer from hypothyroidism for years before you figure it out.
      It robs you of your health and happiness.

      • I got a full blood work done about a month ago. It appears it’s not a thyroid problem. Apparently I’m anemic, really anemic. I’ve been taking iron and B12 supplements for about a month now, and I’ll get a new blood test in another month to see if I can stop taking them or if I should keep them.

        I’ve already seen an improvement and I’ve been sleeping less and waking up early is not as hard as it was before. So, I’m excited about the possibilities as I improve my food intake (which is not as easy to implement as just taking pills)

    • Anna s. says:

      That sounds like a symptom of a rare illness called chronic fatigue syndrome. I’m not saying you have it, but by all means it can’t hurt to see a doctor about it.

  19. Peter says:

    I also can’t drink coffee after noon; keeps me up at least a couple extra hours. Despite that, when really sleep deprived I’ve also conked out within 20 minutes of having a double espresso. I really feel like tea affects me differently though. I seem to be able to drink black or green tea pretty late into the afternoon/evening without it keeping me up in the same way. Doesn’t make a lot of sense from the neurosci perspective…

  20. Tora says:

    I haven’t tried the white noise machine, and as I’m also incredibly sensitive to noise I hope that might be another step toward better sleep.

    It’s actually a bit of a relief that you also suffer with insomnia – I consider myself very healthy and fit, so why the heck can’t I sleep?!! So good to know its not just me!

  21. Joe Garma says:

    Yes, all useful suggestions.

    The dark room, eye mask helps the body produce melatonin which gets you sleepy and helps with deep, sustained sleep. Give the mask a boost by supplementing with melatonin. It also has antioxidant properties and is inexpensive.


    – Joe

  22. Madhu says:

    Interactive screen before bed is bad, yes.

    1) But even better use dimmable light at home after sunset. I use only an accent light that reflects off the wall.

    2)Cold shower and then dinner(even a heavy one) makes effective sleep.

    3)Fiction, short stories, tales that are not highly exciting or suspenseful.

    4) Thinking and planning about tomorrow and solving problems we don’t have is the number 1 reason i cannot sleep well. I try to avoid this. helps.

  23. To solve the noise problem of every little sound waking me, particularly my husbands occasional snoring, I found the best ear plugs. Called Mack’s Pillow Soft Earplugs–12 per pkg. They’re a waxy-type material that you press into your ear opening. For my ear size, I separate a plug into two. They work great. Replace them when they don’t want to stick and make a seal anymore. Get them at Target or most pharmacies.

  24. Kristina says:

    I have chronic insomnia too, dont’t drink coffee at all, but like tea very much. Tried to minimize tea with coffeinne, but instead of good sleep I had terrible migraine. Now drinking tea only early in the morning and this is PU-ERH tea, which I like very much. I am very sensitive to noises and lights at night and sometimes whole night instead of sleep I have so many ideas in my head, it’s terrible. Maybe, yoga will help me, I hope…

  25. Ann says:

    I went for 30 years with many of the sleep problems described in the article and reader comments. Afer falling asleep while walking on a treadmill, I went straight to the doctor.

    I had been reporting all my symptoms to doctors for about five years , but no one really took “sleepy” very seriuosly. After the fall, I had a sleep study and was diagnosed with narcolepsy. I had been struggeling for so many years trying to “fix” it on my own.

    All of the things listed in this article…I do on a daily basis to manage narcolepsy. Most people think that narcolepsy is a daytime problem, but for most it’s around the clock. Sleepy all day and awake at night. There are over 84 different sleep disorders that impact lives of millions…and many go undiagnosed for years!

    Sleep is vital to disease prevention, immune responses, mental accuity, blood sugar and blood pressure regulation…just to name a few. SEE a DOCTOR and get a sleep study. No one should have chronic, long-lasting bouts with insomnia!

  26. Eric Sears says:

    Darya, it sounds like you actually probably don’t have typical clinical insomnia, and likely more a quirk in your circadian rhythm called Delayed Sleep Phase, in which for whatever reason, your body sets it’s own internal clock to be awake for a larger portion of the night time hours. It affects only about 0.15% of the adult population, but it is truly bizarre, annoying, and incredibly difficult for doctors to understand/treat and discern from clinical insomnia, so many people do not have any idea why they are suffering.

    You’re story is very similar to mine, as I was a night owl from a very early age and began to have a great deal of difficulty getting a good nights sleep by my mid-teens and beyond. I’ve had a great deal of success over the years using chronotherapy (adjusting your rhythm by staying up later each day until you’ve reached a desired schedule). It can be a difficult and exhausting practice to learn at first, but it’s incredibly effective.

    All of you’re tips are wonderful, but I’ve found that when all things considered that my body quite literally works like a clock, albeit a confused/delayed clock, and that tricking my body’s clock into behaving they way I want to via chronotherapy is really the most effective means to 8-10 great hours of sleep a night.

    Many of the other commenters appear to have had similar difficulties, and hope many of you take a chance to research DSPD and hopefully find some relief.

  27. Tara says:

    Wow. I have been suffering from chronic insomnia for years. I am 41 and have a full time job from 9-5 pm but it is killing me. I am soo soo tired every afternoon, I have chronic depression because I dont get enough sleep. I fall alseep at like 3 am and wake up to go to work at 7 am, and I have a two hour commute. I am surprised I have not killed someone driving, it totally sucks. Sometimes I dont want to live anymore, but I keep going because I need the money. Everyone thinks I am lazy, but the truth is I just can’t sleep like a normal person. I have tried every kind of drug under the sun. Perscription drugs and non perscription drugs. I have seen countless sleep doctors, and have been labelled as treatment resistant insomnia. Totally sucks. I don’t know how to fix it. I guess I will have to find a way to change my work from home. Any tips email me at

    Thank you.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Tara: I’ve just developed chronic insomnia a few months ago after stopping a medication for migraines (caused rapid heartbeat) that actually HELPED me sleep. I took it for seven, yes, seven years and slept like a log for seven years. Now sleeping is a nightmare! I’m up all night! I felt so bad reading your story. I am deciding whether or not to go back on the medication…it’s called Elavil…it’s an antidepressant and is used for migraines. Can’t you find any medicine that may have a “side effect” like the Elavil and help you sleep? There has to be something out there…maybe not a sleeping pill but something like this antidepressant. It seems like this issue is causing your anxiety and depression…I’m getting that way after two months. Just a thought. I hope you get help soon!

    • D says:

      I think that i would have gone ahead and got a job that allowed me to go in around 12 noon. If you don’t fall
      asleep till 3am then sleeping till 9 or 10am should help
      out quite a bit.

  28. Petra says:

    Wow! So many great tips! I have CFS so am chronically tired, but ironically find it difficult to get a good night sleep (which really affects my mood and ability to get anything done!)
    Here is my sleep-inducing regime:
    * no coffee/tea in the afternoon
    * I use really soft wax-like earplugs that are much more comfy than the foam ones (you can get them in Australia marketed under the name Antinois)
    * a double eye mask – the one next to my face is large, soft microfibre, I have 2 so I can wash them regularly, the outer one is satin and holds it in place!
    * herbal supplements – kava or a hops/lavender/passionflower supplement
    * several sprays of Bach rescue/sleep remedy combo
    And the biggest thing is my chronically low Vitamin D – despite exposure to the sun, I still need to have daily supplements. If I don’t, within days I’ll start waking up around 3 a.m. and not getting back to sleep. My doctor originally put me on to this, and I have discovered through trial and error that it is definitaly a BIG factor in my sleep quality (apart from all the other problems it causes!) – so if you find you’re getting up around 3am for no known reason, despite doing all the right things, it may be worthwile getting a blood test.

  29. Victor says:

    Thanks for the useful information Darya! This should be enough for most people, but in case it hasn’t worked for you I highly recommend the Six Steps to Sleep program. Insomnia used to have an unbreakable grip on my life, and this program helped me turn my whole life around. I can’t say enough for it. Try it out, and if for any reason it doesn’t work Peter does refunds.

  30. always the sun says:

    Spend a half hour in the sun each day , with no sunscreen nor sunglasses. Our body needs the sunlight to produce vitamin D and vitamin D is very important for our sleep.

  31. Theresa says:

    Wow hello everyone it is about 5 am been up since 3:45 I have been this wa for almost 5 years now and sometimes I want to run away. I go to sleep like a normal person thow half the time it falling asleep on the couch. Wake 2 hrs later go into the garage and smoke than I’m to the couch were I will fall asleep for a hr or so wake go into the garage smoke maybe have a cup of coffee smoke some more go to couch. Wait till 5 am till the Birds start chirping and go to my room and PASS OUT LIKE IM DEAD oh for about a hr. y
    This is my life sad and true.For all of you who are going to say cigarettes and coffee in the middle of the night! TRUST ME I KNOW but after 5 yrs. of this shit sometimes it just doesn’t matter anymore. For some reason the birds and knowing its morning make me calm. Unbelievable ISNT it ;( my sympathy to all it is truly the worst feeling ever.

  32. Theresa says:

    And by looking at my typing maybe that’s the lack of sleep. Wow sorry but I did want to add there is not anything worse than having a husband remind you daily that this will TOTALLY SHORTEN MY LIFE!!!!!! As if I don’t know these things. Good luck to all birds are chirping got to go LOL

  33. the insomniac from hell says:

    I have had chronic insomnia since I was a small child and now at 24 it’s gotten so bad that I feel like I want to strangle these free clinic doctors who say that it’s the clinic’s “policy” not to treat sleep, anxiety, or pain disorders of any real kind anyway…I have no insurance, can’t work, keep getting denied disability though only because of loopholes, the bastards…anyway, I was 14 by the time they finally gave me some ambien, I averaged 0-4 hours per night, and it took at least 40-50mg to get me to sleep…now it’s so bad that I sleep only once or twice a week, and if I’m lucky I can procure some valium, xanax, ambien, klonopin, etc. But it doesn’t last me very long…valium is chickenshit by itself even up to 80mg or so, but if I take 30-40mg with 50mg ambien plus 2-4mg xanax after several hours I will finally fall asleep, but that rest costs almost fifty bucks…I really just need some bloody choral hydrate pills and I’ll be fine…but no, I’m too poor, too white, and too damned Appalachian to be treated like a rich Yankee would. He’ll, I’m typing this early in the morning, after taking 2 10mg ambiens and I still ain’t tired.

    In addition to all that, I’m chronically ill and have been all my life with various things including autoimmune diseases plus chronic pain due to degenerative disc disease diagnosed at 15, hardcore endometriosis, severe, bloody nightmarish migraines on top of everything else, the generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, telephonephobia, agoraphobia, and the cursed list just goes on and on…

    So, basically my tips for myself and others who can go over 7 nights and 8 days without sleep is, find a doctor who will give you plenty of benzodiazepines, and if they don’t, buy them from someone you can trust, because when that sleep hygiene shit ain’t doing Jack for us, you’re gonna need em and in a real bad way. Ain’t nothing in the world wrong with doing what you need to to get to sleep. Twenty minutes ago I took those ambient and….nothing. gonna go take another on a growling stomach…best wishes to the true treatment resistant chronic insomniacs that nothing short of sedation or anesthesia, thorazine, or choral hydrate can help…G’night…or, actually, morning…..bleh.

    • adrenalininsomniac says:

      You can try hijama therapy or wet cupping where they remove toxic blood and metals from your system (its experimentally lab tested and proven the drawn blood is toxic) and make sure they do it on the top of your head. Search for “hijama therapy on the head” on youtube. Ive done it twice now and it helps with the insomnia and everything else.

  34. Harpoleptic says:

    Good article Darya, very informative. I am all about behavioral strategies for sleep. Have you read about Intensive Sleep Retraining (ISR)? A 2007 study was replicated in 2012:

    Works on theory of chronic insomnia caused by negative conditioning. ISR worked as well as Stimulus Control, and much faster.

    I am developing a simple at-home version of ISR Called “SleepQ”. No EEG wires or lab needed. Website is up and being finalized: Twittering with updates @sleeponQ.

    Thank you for the informative post on sleep!


  35. Rebecca says:

    My tip: acupuncture
    My story: After I went off Depo-provera (birth control injection) and had properly detoxed, I starting having regular insomnia; roughly around the time I ovulated although sometimes it would last all month. I was pretty sure it was hormonal and none of the tips I found online worked. It was so deep… I would usually fall asleep fine for a few hours then in the middle of the night, feel myself being dragged to the surface by something in my body, and then poof — I’m wide awake as if it’s mid-morning and I’ve been awake for hours already.
    My general doctor had no tips at all. Blood tests were fine and I’m pretty healthy other than the insomnia. He put me on a sleeping pill. I was so scared to take it because I thought I would become addicted! Funnily enough, I had absolutely ZERO reaction to it. Not even a bit dozy..
    Then, after I had tried absolutely everything, I saw someone mention acupuncture online and found a clinic near me that specializes in women’s health. After about 4 weeks, I felt my sleep becoming deeper, and even though I would still wake up somewhat regularly, I was able to fall back asleep. After a few more treatments, I was having the best nights of sleep that I could ever remember having. There is no side effect to my acupuncture treatments and I feel like it has saved my life. It is not magic and I’m not saying it would work for everyone but for those of us who know how awful this can be, I think it’s worth trying anything that is safe.

    I’m still undergoing regular treatment (down to once a month) because I still can’t kick it totally. I just find it so mysterious that such a problem can exist in my body and I would love to know exactly what causes it but I think I might never know.

  36. Temp says:

    I have been suffering from Chronic Insomnia for over 2 years now. During work weeks I would average about 3-4 hours of sleep daily. There would be at least one night a every week where I don’t sleep at all, sometimes it could be 2 or 3 nights a week with zero sleep. My cognitive and mental abilities have been dramatically impacted. I am unable to focus and my memory has deteriorated to horrific extent. I have also noticed that I have aged quite a bit over the last 2 years. Half my hair is white (mind you Im only 33 years old), my eyelids are very saggy with black marks under them.
    I have tried many of the things in this article but nothing seems to work. I think these remedies are for mild to moderate insomnia. But for severe cases this advice just doesn’t cut it. More medical help is needed either for stronger medications or cognitive behavioral therapy. I still haven’t solved my insomnia problems so I’m in no place to offer advice or solutions.

    • Tara says:

      Hi Temp,
      I am in the same boat as you. I never really feel rested and I am not sure how many more months or years I can live like this. Good luck.

  37. Michael says:

    Lots of different approaches out there! In my work as a Clinical Sleep Educator, I encourage my patients to try to closely follow the behavioral strategies of stimulus control, relaxation, and sleep hygiene. Using Actigraphy, I usually employ some sleep restriction too. These CBT components can be challenging and sometimes take weeks of effort, but they often help significantly.

    Good article, thanks!


  38. Tara says:

    Hi My name is Tara. I wrote on here a while back, I have had insomnia for the past several years and I follow all the tips. I do the following and have for over 10 yrs.

    1. wear a sleep mask
    2. wear silicone earplugs
    3. use a white noise machine
    4. avoid alcohol late at night
    5, etc, etc.

    I do all the sleep hygiene tips. In addition to that this past April I quit my full time job and moved. Right now I can’t work full time because I dont sleep enough. I am constantly tired, grouchy and depressed because of lack of sleep. If I sleep I feel great. I think the reason I don’t sleep is because I took benzos for over 10 yrs as a sleep aid. I quit taking them and I have not been able to sleep since. I have been to 3 top sleep doctors in San Diego and in Seattle. They just threw more sleep meds at me like Ambien and Lunesta, but those don’t help, you just feel hung over the next day and then if you don’t take them you don’t sleep at all. I have tried all types of alternatives such as Zanaflex, Trazadone, Neurontin and amitriptilyn. and many others. They might help me sleep one or two hours but that is it. I went to see a sleep physhologist and he suggested part of the problem is my brain chemistry is messed up from all the yrs of using benzos to sleep and he said it would be able to reset itself eventually but it could take years, then he gave me a sleep hygiene list. (I already have the list). So in the meantime I get maybe two hours a sleep per night and I am miserable. I don’t know how many months or years I can wait for my sleep schedule to reset, I have been waiting for months and its torture! Does anyone have any other possible meds that help you sleep that are not addicting. I feel like I am giving the best years of my life away to chronic insomnia. Or do I go back on benzos? I don’t like who I am when I am on them but at least I could sleep.

    • I can relate says:

      Hi Tara,
      I too have been on benzodiazepines for the past 10 years. Mainly klonopin. I have been off them for a year and my sleep has greatly suffered. I suffer from constant rumination and anxiety and all the sleep hygiene in the world doesn’t alleviate that. I haven’t slept for 5 days and I’m going to go in Friday and get back on klonopin. I promised myself I would never go back on them but they’re they only thing that helps. When you’re sleep deprived and exhausted you need caffeine to stay awake during the day. You are too weak to exercise. You’re frustrated. And people seem to think that a few hygiene suggestions will solve the problem. I don’t think they understand how vicious of an existence it really is. Best of luck to you

      • Tara says:

        OMG. I have so been there, I say dont stop now, give it another 48 hours and you will crash. When I went cold turkey I went 5 days without sleep, then I crashed. From there you will sleep without pills but it wont be easy. You will sleep like 2 or 3 hours at a time, which is ok depending on your lifestyle/work. I went through that twice and each time it was about 5 days before I went to sleep again. Don’t give up! Its so worth it to not be dependent on benzo. Benzo are ok but you are always grouchy when you are on them.

      • Tara says:

        On the other hand, if you suffer from crazy anxiety, maybe you are not in a place where you can go off them and try to sleep. I know when my life was really crazy I could not sleep no matter what. Sounds like this is the situation you are in now. Right now my life is somewhat stable, so I can try to focus on not stressing about sleep, but it took me years to get to the point where I have the support I need from my husband where he understand the insomnia and how hard it is for me, and so he is like ok no need to stress. That is helpful. The rest of the family does not understand how chronic insomnia leads to a lot of stress about sleep. And that stress/anxiety just makes the sleep a lot work..does not help. Good luck to you too.

  39. Sally says:

    I am in my 3 months of not sleeping again. I’ve been here before in the past 4 years. The longest one I did not sleep was 1 year but I was not working at that time so it’s no big deal but right now I am struggling with my work because of my chronic insomnia. I take 1/2 sleeping pills once a week and sometimes melatonin but I observed that my mental ability is slower. I am really looking for some relief. I am having a lot of stress in my family these days and I know this has triggered my sleeping problems.

    • Tim Bellows says:


      Interesting comments here. I like the meditation idea. I use HU, the most ancient chant of all. It sounds like the word “hue.” You can try it – sing it gently over and over. Relaxing, heart-healing, and spiritualizing. It opens the heart to divine love. May the blessings be,
      [See books by Harold Klemp on HU….]

  40. Kelly says:

    Thank you for a very thoughtful article. Doctors didn’t tell me as much. Wish all on this board a peaceful, long rest every night.

  41. InsomniaMom says:

    Great article. I think I read it earlier this year (pretty sure this is where I first heard about white-noise machines) but forgot to comment. :/

    Here’s my experience with 6 insomnia cures:

  42. Ray says:

    Smoking weed… Will help most of you…

  43. er... says:

    If I don’t post a comment I’ll never be able to get to sleep. Does this mean no more bedtime Google? If it looks like a goose, quacks like a goose…

  44. debo says:

    sleep is worth more than diamonds to me presently,been having problem sleeping for over a year now. have gone to virtually every doctor i know can help me they all place me on drugs that work for a short while and am back to square 1, pls how long do i need to depend on pills to sleep? presently the amount of drugs have taken as worn me out! pls is there any other remedy? and most preferable not pills related. tnx for the opportunity.

    • Darya Rose says:

      Exercise, mindfulness practice (calming the mind), keeping a dark room while sleeping, sleeping and waking at the same time daily, and getting lots of light in the morning are all really helpful, in my experience.

  45. pierre says:

    Thanks for the article – great advice! … I’ve had insomnia on and off fir the past ten years since secondary school. I would like to know if my dark under eyes will ever go once I have been sleeping well for long enough or if they are permanent?


  46. Jane says:

    That’s great. I so much wish my chronic and severe insomnia would leave me too. I suffer from it terribly where I go through episodes of not sleeping a wink the whole night and only sleeping every other night. This has lasted on and off for 15 months.

    I’ve tried melatonin (it used to work for me, doesn’t anymore) tryptophan and 5-htp only works sometimes, magnesium, vit b6, calcium drinking lots of milk, valerian doesn’t work. Exercise doesn’t always work. I wear eye shades on my eyes at night. And restavit sleeping tablets they work but I can only take them rarely because I don’t want to be dependent or addicted to it.

    As a child I used to be a great sleeper but as an adult my sleep got worse because of anxiety, but these last 15 months I suffered from an undiagnosed nerve illness and the doctors can’t help me. The nerve illness is fading but my sleep isn’t getting much better because my sleepless nights keep coming back all too often. And I get so very tired the next day I can’t function properly. I don’t know what to do?

  47. says:

    Stop taking pills and herbs!!! The only thing that helped me cure my insomnia is thiS incredible book:

    The Effortless Sleep Method,The Incredible New Cure for Insomnia and Chronic Sleep Problems by Sasha Stephens

    It really saved my life!!! I strongly recommend it!!! No more sleepless nights for me!!!

  48. tinyurl says:

    Hi, I am suffering from insomnia at the moment. I have suffered from this since late 2011 then it suddenly stopped around early 2013 but I still took some sleep aids in order for me to get 7-8 hours of sleep. Now it’s back and I’m miserable. I think it is stress since I started working again and I have moved to NYC. I am now seeing a doctor and I need to take Ambien. Ambien helped me for the first few weeks but now it only can last for like four hours and when I wake up to go for bathroom break, I then have trouble falling back to sleep. I’m desperate! I’m on my second acupuncture appointment on Friday and I hope it will help me. I just can’t shut off my mind even if I want to, like my mind is talking and thinking non-stop. I don’t drink coffee or soda anymore so that I will avoid having sleeping problems but I don’t know why I’m still having insomnia. Help!

    • Tara says:

      Sounds like the anxiety is causes the stress-insomnia. Ambien is a short term thing. Acupuncture wont cure insomnia.

    • Rebecca says:

      Sorry to hear about that. Give acupuncture at least 4-5 sessions before seeing results. Be honest with the therapist so he/she knows what to work on. It’s not magic and it probably doesn’t work for everyone as well as it did for me. However, it cured my insomnia after I had tried absolutely every other tactic, so I would respectfully disagree with Tara. I am forever grateful to my therapist.

    • Darya Rose says:

      I agree. I’d guess meditation, exercise and Xanax would help you most. Speaking from personal experience.

  49. René says:

    I would look into using hypnosis: [link removed]

    I personally believe that It could make a huge impact in helping with insomnia.

  50. Amy says:

    Try valerian root. It is like the homeopathic version of Xanax. If your mind wonders, it’s most likely insomnia caused by anxiety. Treat the anxiety and the insomnia should improve

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