Whenever most people have serious trouble sleeping, they automatically reach for a sleeping aid, whether that’s a prescription or over-the-counter medication or a natural remedy.
But these solutions, as psychologist and sleep specialist Stephanie Silberman, Ph.D, explained, are anything but.
In fact, the preferred solution — the one that research also supports — is a treatment that many people, even medical professionals, are unaware of.
Below, Dr. Silberman, author of The Insomnia Workbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Getting the Sleep You Need, offers insight into insomnia and its treatment and shares several strategies readers can try at home.
What is Normal Sleep?
Before thinking about disturbed sleep, it’s important to understand what normal sleep really is. Normal slumber involves falling asleep relatively easily once you’re in bed, Silberman said. “People have a range of how quickly they go to sleep,” she said, but typically they can drift off to sleep anywhere from a few minutes to 15 minutes.
Normal sleepers will also go through four stages of sleep several times a night, she said. According to The Insomnia Workbook, the stages are:
- Stage N1: the lightest stage, which usually makes up 10 percent of your total sleep time.
- Stage N2: unlike stage N1, you lose awareness of external stimuli, and people spend most of their sleep time in this stage.
- Stage N3: known as slow-wave sleep, and believed to be the most restorative.
- Stage R: known as REM sleep, or rapid eye movement. It’s the most active of the stages for your brain and body functions, such as breathing and heart rate. Your muscles relax, however, so you don’t act out your dreams.
It’s also normal for it to take about 20 to 30 minutes to feel truly awake in the morning.
What Is Insomnia?
“Most people with insomnia have difficulty either falling asleep, known as sleep onset insomnia, or staying asleep, known as sleep maintenance insomnia,” Silberman writes in her book, which provides readers with information on insomnia and strategies to treat it and sleep better.