top of page
Woman Sleeping


Smart Dog

Coping with Insomnia


What is Insomnia exactly? Insomnia is when you have the opportunity to go to bed and you are unable to fall asleep or have extreme difficulty falling asleep. Insomnia is a condition that many different people face and can’t explain. This is a very complicated problem that can make you feel dissatisfied with the amount of sleep you are getting.


Symptoms of Insomnia:

  • Fatigue

  • Low energy

  • Mood Disturbance

  • Decreased Performance

  • Difficulty Concentrating





























There are different types of insomnia that doctors and psychologist have separated into two different categories: Primary Insomnia and Secondary Insomnia.

  • Primary Insomnia: This is a type of insomnia that is not related to other health conditions or problems.

  • Secondary Insomnia: This is a type of insomnia that is categorized by a person having sleep problems due to a health or mental condition. These conditions can include, asthma, arthritis, heartburn, depression, anxiety, pain, or mediations that are affecting the sleep cycle.


Do I have Acute Insomnia or Chronic Insomnia? What is the difference?

  • Acute Insomnia: This is a period of insomnia that is classified by its duration. This type of insomnia usually occurs when you are dealing with significant life changes or stressful life acts. For example, you may have difficulty falling asleep the night before a huge college exam that you have spent hours studying for.


This is a type of insomnia that many different people have experienced at some point in their lives and it tends to resolve by itself. For instance, this type of insomnia may resolve after you have successfully completed your exam and received your final grades.

  • Causes of Acute Insomnia:

    • Life stress (Job loss, school, divorce, anxiety)

    • Illness

    • Environmental factors (temperature and light)

    • Medications (Some medications may interfere with one’s sleep cycle)

    • Interference in a sleep Schedule (Changing sleep times)

    • Emotional or Physical Pain or discomfort



















Chronic Insomnia:


Chronic Insomnia is usually diagnosed if you have disrupted sleep that happens at least three nights per weeks and lasts for a period of three months or longer. Chronic Insomnia can happen for a variety of reasons such as, mental health disorders, life changes, long term patterns of insufficient sleep and medical issues. People who experience Chronic Insomnia often need to seek treatment to get their sleep schedule under control and back to healthy routine.



Causes of Chronic Insomnia:

  • Chronic Stress

  • Depression and Anxiety

  • Pain or Discomfort at Night


How is Insomnia Diagnosed?

Insomnia can be a complicated disorder because it does not create a perfect pattern of symptoms, it actually creates imperfect patterns. The best way to have insomnia diagnosed is by a health care provider. Your medical provider might perform a physical exam, create a medical history (looking for patterns), do a sleep study, or suggest a sleep journal.


One of the most common ways to diagnosis Insomnia is by keeping a journal. Creating a sleep diary for a few weeks will let you track your sleep patterns and feelings during the day and night. Your feelings during the day are significant to your sleep patterns at night, you can draw conclusions from negative feelings during the day and trouble sleeping at night.


How do you Treat Insomnia?

If you have acute Insomnia, it may go away by itself or it may be fixed with practicing healthier sleep habits. If you have Chronic Insomnia you may be prescribed sleeping pills or rapid onset drugs that help you get rid of feelings of drowsiness (especially if you are having a hard time staying awake during the day). It is important to seek a health care professional rather than over the counter sleeping pills.


These pills can have undesired effects and they do not provide an effective method or cure for insomnia. A healthcare provide or psychologist will look at treating the root cause of the insomnia first. Behavioral therapy will help you change the behaviors that create insomnia or feed into your insomnia. A psychologist can give you the tools to change your patterns.


This can happen by working on a variety of techniques such as, relaxation exercises, sleep restriction therapy, reconditioning, and organizing.


How Can I Avoid Insomnia?

The best way to combat insomnia is by creating good sleep habits and sleep hygiene.

  • Create a Schedule: Going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning helps your body fall into a cycle. When you are creating a schedule make sure to avoid daytime naps. Naps can make it significantly harder to fall asleep at night and they can ruin your schedule.

  • Stop Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol Use: A cup of coffee in the morning is absolutely okay, but you want to avoid any type of caffeine later in the day. Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol are considered stimulants and they interfere with your ability to get productive sleep.

  • Get Plenty of Exercise: Start by creating a simple exercise routine that you can follow every day. Try to make sure you are exercising in the morning rather than later in the evening. Try to avoid exercise three to four hours before you go to bed.

  • Create a Comfortable Environment: Make sure you are comfortable in your bedroom. Keep the room dark and quiet. If you work an off schedule you can use things like a sleep mask and ear plugs to help you cope with light and noise.

  • Avoid Electronics: The light given off from electronics can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.

  • Make a To Do list: You may find yourself stressing about the things you have to do the next day or the next week. Take some of this stress off of your shoulders by creating a to do list that you can manage!

  • Follow a Routine: This is a routine made by you with the things that make you comfortable. This might mean taking a shower or a bath every night an hour before bed or reading a book a half hour before going to bed.


What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia?

Coping with insomnia usually means you need to make life changes or treat an underlying problem such as anxiety or depression. Sleep is a crucial need for the human body to function. Cognitive Behavioral therapy is one of the most successful and proven methods to combat insomnia- both Chronis insomnia and Acute Insomnia. This is going to include weekly or bi-weekly visits to a psychologist.


Your psychologist might give you a series of tasks that you should complete and work on during your session. These tasks are aimed at helping you change the way you sleep. A Psychologist will help you change little things that are affecting your sleep in a way that will not stress you out. Having a plan can make all the difference when trying to get a better night’s sleep! A psychologist may use techniques such as:

Stimulus Control Instruction: This is created by looking at your sleep patterns and habits. This will help identify different actions that are making it difficult to fall asleep. This is can implement a simple change such as, leaving the bedroom and not returning until you are ready to go to bed.

Sleep Hygiene Education: A psychologist can create a list of things that you shouldn’t do before bed. They will also include suggestions of what to do before bed.

Create a Relapse Prevention Program: When you seek treatment for Insomnia it is important that you have a plan. A plan will help you from going back to old sleep habits that caused your insomnia. Every patient should be able to maintain what they have learned and use these tools over and over again.


There are many different things that can trigger insomnia but a good plan will remind you of three things: not to compensate for sleep loss (naps), Re-start your stimulus controls, and re-engage your sleep restrictions.


Don’t let Insomnia take hold of your life, you have the power to change your sleep situation!

Call Dr. Clare Albright, Psy. D., Psychologist, CA License PSY11660 at (949) 454-0996 at

Insomnia therapy
bottom of page