Can't fall asleep? Toss and turn all night? Are you so anxious about not sleeping that you CAN'T sleep? Millions of us battle sleep deprivation.

Most of us occasionally lose sleep, but for others, it's a serious problem. So serious, that you can create physical and emotional problems and you’re more prone to injury. If you use medication or take a drink to nod off, you're also risking addiction.

But you should also know that insomnia is NOT really a serious health problem. It's not a chronic illness - just irritating, because everyone else is sound asleep.

So here are the facts:

Most adults need approx 7 - 8 hrs of sleep each night. But it’s different for each one of us. So how do you know how many hours you need? If you’re not tired the next day, that’s what you need.

The key is to ask yourself why you can’t get to sleep. You may be in physical pain. You may have anxiety about a problem or situation and it’s spinning around in your brain…. Discover the cause and you can then put it behind you.

But, if you have serious medical condition you should always consult a physician.

As we age, our sleep patterns also change. It is not uncommon for elderly people to sleep less at night and take cat-naps during the day. Not everyone needs those 7 – 8 uninterrupted hours. Some need more, some less.

Note that, if you eat late night dinners, chances are you won’t be able to fall asleep on a full stomach. if you’re eating a heavy meal, give yourself at least 2 hrs before going to bed, but it’s best to eat lighter meals, earlier in the evening. If you’re hungry later on, eat a banana and drink chamomile tea. Other bedtime snacks suggestions, low sugar cereal or granola with low fat yogurt. Warm milk and ½ a sandwich – but make sure to keep it light.

And if you can’t sleep, don't get up and raid the fridge late at night. Rich food, fatty food, spicy food, too much alcohol, caffeine and drinking lots of fluid, will all work against you
Computer games, IM, Facebook etc. can be stimulating activities and will keep your thoughts spinning, - even after your head hits the pillow. It’s more relaxing to read a book or flip through magazines – take a walk, ride a bike – but remember that too much stimulation will prevent you from sleeping.

Take a drink. You’ve heard that before. A nightcap may make you sleepy, but you won’t have a peaceful night. Also, drinking before bed can become habit forming and that’s how many people start on the road to addiction. Beware that alcohol and sleep medication, definitely don't mix.

Sleep can be affected 10-12 hrs after drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks. So cut down on caffeinated coffee, teas and sodas and of course cigarettes are stimulants. If you smoke before bedtime it won't be helpful to get you to sleep.

Remedies to help you fall asleep

1) Make a to-do list for the next day then tell yourself you’ll do it tomorrow.
2) Write a worry list and tell yourself that there’s nothing you can do now, so go to sleep.
3) Listen to relaxing music before bed
4) If you can’t go to sleep in 15 minutes, get out of bed and do something – not the computer, housework or anything that will stimulate you – reading makes you drowsy.
5) Make sure you’re comfortable in bed.
6) Make sure the room is dark
7) The room should not be too hot nor too cool.
8) Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every night. This sets your natural body clock.
9) Use relaxation techniques: meditation tape, yoga – this will get both your body and mind to relax.
10) If you’re in bed, engage your brain in a non-stimulating exercise ex. counting, visualization, deep breathing

Unless sleep deprivation results from a medical problem, medication should always be used as a last resort. If you are using prescription drugs to get to sleep, have it monitored.

No drug is without side effects. Even over-the-counter medication can cause side-effects ex. rebound insomnia (then you’re worse than you were in the first place) and you can become dependent as well.

The up side is that occasional insomnia is normal. If you keep that in mind, you won’t worry about those bad nights and sleep deprivation won’t develop into an an obsession.

Author's Bio: 

I am a psychotherapist and addiction counselor specializing in all impulse control behaviors: Food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, compulsive sex, codependency and relationship issues. I have a private practice as well as do personal coaching and recovery by phone or on the web.