by Lara Schuster Effland, LCSW

Lara Schuster EfflandThe agony of insomnia affects about 10 to 35 percent of us. Once sleep loss starts, it becomes a psychological and physical battle.

It can feel like the myth of Sisyphus, who night after night pushed a large weighted stone up a hill only to see it roll down again. But there are ways to reduce the weight and size of this “stone.”

Research and clinical experience show that insomnia is associated with reduced quality of life as well as depression. In turn, depression can lead to sleep problems. Insomnia can also lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, exhaustion, and an inability to concentrate.

The more we look for sleep, the less we find it. Let go of the pursuit and focus on doing what you can to improve the situation.

Calm Your Mind

You can take actions to improve the quality of your nighttime rest. In the moments of your sleeplessness and distress, you can work to calm your mind and body through the use of conscious relaxation, cognitive therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy techniques. I recommend that you first consult your therapist, psychiatrist, or doctor to ensure that you have no psychological issues, medical complications, or medication interactions that could be causing your difficulties with sleep.

When it comes to sleep hygiene, studies show that a bedtime routine that includes a period of time to unwind can be effective. A common practice is to turn off all electronics after 9:00 pm and then get dressed and washed up for the night. Once ready for bed, do a relaxation exercise and spend 30 minutes reading a book before finally closing your eyes. If you are still struggling to sleep, try to reduce the amount of time you toss and turn by getting out of bed and going to a quiet, comfortable spot in another room or area of the bedroom to read or do more relaxation exercises.

Focus on the Body

If you have consistent trouble calming your mind, it can be more effective to focus on the body first. You can use relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and somatic therapy techniques. One example of these techniques is to focus on your breath and body rather than on negative thought patterns and frustration. To do so, you breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. This simple exercise will automatically slow down your breathing and help your body relax. Then, after a few breaths, breathe through your nose for both the inhalation and exhalation, and begin to follow your abdomen’s rise and fall. This is called “riding the wave” of your breathing. Even if you do not fall asleep, your body is at rest.

To work with the mind, cognitive therapy and DBT techniques can be effective in challenging negative thinking and inserting reaffirming statements. A challenging statement could be, “Even though I am struggling to fall asleep, I can work to calm my mind and body the best I can.” Or, “I am struggling with sleep, and it will not last forever. I can be patient.” You want to validate your feelings, state the facts, and reassure yourself that you are doing the best that you can. Keep a log of your sleep activity, helpful ways you cope with negative thinking, and your relaxation exercises — all helpful for you as well as your health care professionals.

Lara Schuster Effland, LCSW, is the Vice President of the Mood and Anxiety Program and Residential Services at Insight Behavioral Health Centers of Chicago. Ms. Effland clinically specializes and trains others in dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness-based therapies, exposure and response prevention, and trauma treatment.

I am absolutely agreeing on a point that if a person focuses on his body rather than focusing on his mind then he will feel a reduced stress and he will get a sound sleep. Meditation really works. My mother with a <a href="">Parkinson's disease</a> tried this and she totally fine with her sleep.

Samantha Christian

September 20, 2017

I am really thankful to you for sharing these incredibly useful tips on improving depression and sleep problems. However, I would like to add few more points in this section. For example.
1. Wake up at the same time each day.
2. Eliminate alcohol and stimulants like nicotine and caffeine.
3. Limit naps.
4. Exercise regularly.
5. Limit activities in bed.

Hope this helps.

Thanks & Regards,
Samantha Christian

Curious. I find that naps during the day help me to sleep better at night. I suppose everyone is different.

I’m currently in the same situation, less than 3 hours of sleep a night since June. I began CBT a week ago, so far the only thing he did was put me on sleep restriction-only allowed in bed from 12 AM to 6 AM. It has made the situation so much worse! Not sure how much longer I can continue as it’s affecting my work.

Hi, are you still having these sleep issues? What do you think is causing it? My issue I think is worrying that I can't sleep and the anxiety around it.


September 3, 2020

In reply to by John Bedson

I have battled sleep deprevation to the point that I almost died. Naps can help! It's not true to stop naps. IF you get too tired, and you feel that you need to close your eyes, don't prevent it. The key is not to go to nap too late in the day. If you do, you will throw off your sleep pattern and have to start over again getting it back. If I get too tired, I don't sleep well at night. Once I start to sleep again, naps come more easily. I am so exhausted from the months/years of not sleeping well that once I start sleeping better, I go into this whole thing of my body craves more. It's a challenge to stick to the plan and not just go lay down and sleep through the day. If you can get a short nap to start with, it might help your body to start relaxing a bit more. When I am caught up in a lot of stress, the adrenals are going on overdrive and it burns me out badly. Then, I am too stressed to sleep. A nap can break it.

Does anyone have anything or tips that help them sleep. Been months now. I can't sleep most nights. Days turn to nights while im wide awake. I try to stay motivated and get active during the day. Come night time. I cannot sleep.

I don't have friends in office I feel lonely always, all my colleagues are speaking gossips about me, they are not friendly. So I feel depressed. Pls help me or. Give any tips

An unhealthy environment in your general life or at work is not something I think you should work around. I'm not a professional or anything but I would strongly suggest getting a new job and pay close attention to the atmosphere of the environment before taking it.

It's ok with it.its your life not any one else. You can be self motivate. Ignor them make a day better then now . Work on your personality. Work on your positivity. Keep all things in positive way.

Hi there.

It can be really daunting battling depression as a result of toxic work places. Locations we spend majority of lives in.

I presently go through what you are experiencing and have found it useful to repeat positive affirmations to myself and distance myself as much as possible from such toxic individuals.

I hope this helps. :)

The problem is, when I go to sleep earlier I don't get that full eight or nine hours; I usually wake up at 5 or 6 AM so I'm still getting the same amount of sleep I would if I was closing my eyes at 1 or 2 AM.I am aware that sleeping regimens need time to kick in with the cycle, but it's been months now and I have no reprieve. Should I see a doctor? Take medication? Should i try taking medicinal cannabis like this one ??
Sucks, man. By like 3 or 4 PM I start dozing off again, and I come home and I just want to take a nap. Lack of energy, which impacts my gym regimen and general welfare. I don't want to do chores, or work, or even play video games in my down time because staring at the screen tires me out.

Hi Cameron, I am experiencing exactly the same problems as you (male, 30). I notice that if I am really happy e.g. lots of sun exposure, being physically active, enjoying company of friends/gf then I am likely to sleep much better. I guess the sleep problem is due to depression and lack of serotonin or similar. However I see it as a physical problem.
I would say that it's worth trying anything that would increase serotonin levels, I would be using marijuana if it was fully legal here, in its place I'm thinking of buying CBD oil. So yeah, go for it. Just use a vaporiser so that you don't damage your health from smoking. Good luck!

Cameron if you are over the age of 30 have your Testosterone levels checked. What you’re experiencing sounds like what I went through. Got on testosterone and bam I’m a new man. Not lethargic and definitely helped in other areas as well. I realize this is two years old but hey ya never know if it helps. Also eating healthier will aid in this as well.

Read your post but still dont know how to do it. Been in this sleeping problem for almost 2 years but was not aware that am depressed. Only when i had a heart to heart talk with my doctor. Can somebody please post some more possible remedies? Thanks much!!

This is a very helpful tips for the people, who are suffering from sleep disorders from a long time. I am suffering from sleep apnea. Well I am using CPAP machine. I have bought <a href="">cpap masks for side sleepers</a>, it was recommended by my doctor. It is helping me for a good sleep. Still I want CPAP free life. I agree with your suggestion. I will follow your tips to have better life.

Anyone who can tell and insomniac to think “I am struggling with sleep, and it will not last forever. I can be patient” has clearly never experienced it for themselves. As a sufferer myself, this only makes me angry.

I have been suffering fro severe chronic insomnia for over three years now. I only get roughly 2-4 hours sleep per night. Many times no sleep at all (!). I have lost my job, my health, and everything else in life because of it. Fully understand what you are saying. When someone is so sleep-deprived, that he/ she has to even focus to take a breath...

I have been suffering with sleep problems for many years, but recent current episode is beyond anything I experienced previously. I get about 2-3 hours per night, even with medications, which I have tried a few. When people complain that they cannot get their 8 hours and only get 6, or wake up early hours, or wake up and take time to go to sleep, it is funny, because clearly these folks' problems are mild. For severe insomniacs, all these suggestions, such as diet, exercise, night-time routine usually have minimal effect.

I have been told that some folks have hyper-active mind which continues to process and makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. There are some studies on that. The problem is that there is no solution.

Cannot sleep maybe 1 hour sleeping pills leave me groggy only sleep 3 to 4 hours taking one don’t like taking pills to sleep

Hey wanted to ask u r u better now
And hv u told ur parents and done any medication

I feel anxious. Can't sleep without sleeping pills. And to make things worse I think I’m getting addicted to them. How can I make myself feel better and sleep better?

Hi I’ve had real problems over last week with my sleep. Normally get it for a week one dry two or three months but this virus has caused a lot more anxiety.

My experience? Lack of sleep is the cause of depression. No breathing. Yoga. And now the new sleep hygiene. That's been known forever. Doesn't work. Turning off the t.v. is the WORST thing you could do for me
Can not sleep with our it on. Would make it worse. A bit tired of M.D after M.D telling me I'm depressed. Nope. I take their meds
Go to counseling just to be told I'm not
Depressed. Sleep studies show I do not sleep.. insomnia is real
Don't mask it with depression. And breathing.

Your article features verified? beneficial to myself and many other also. you have shared such a important information and how long will it take to resolve it thank you for sharing this information

This is a very helpful tips for the people, who are suffering from sleep disorders from a long time. I am suffering from sleep apnea. Well I am using CPAP machine. I have bought Visit - cpap masks for side sleepers, it was recommended by my doctor. It is helping me for a good sleep. Still I want CPAP free life. I agree with your suggestion. I will follow your tips to have better life.