Snooze University

If Insomnia is Ruining Your Life, Here's What to Do

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Insomnia is no joke, it can ruin every aspect of your life.

While it’s been awhile, it used to take me hours to fall asleep and I was constantly exhausted.

Now I’d like to walk you through the general approach that should be taken to resolve insomnia.

If possible, see a doctor, but I’ll outline some quick tests that you can do yourself if that’s not an option (or you’re waiting for an appointment).

In general, you can put the causes of insomnia into 3 main categories:

  • Physical
  • Environmental
  • Mental

I’m going to walk you through the order that these should be ruled out.

Get a Baseline for How Bad Your Sleep Issues Are

You always want to have a baseline so that if you try something out, you’ll know if it helped or not.

See my guide to how to know if you have insomnia, which outlines how to get your sleep quality score (free online in about 60 seconds) and what criteria are used in the diagnosis of insomnia.

There are different types of insomnia, so if possible, get a proper diagnosis by a doctor so you can hone in on a solution.

Rule Out Underlying Conditions

The first part of any sleep treatment plan is to see if anything else is causing the sleep problems.

You can’t just treat the symptom (i.e. insomnia) if there’s another condition causing it. You’ll never get a real solution that way.

The most common comorbidities that cause insomnia are depression and anxiety, but many more like thyroid problems and even anemia can cause insomnia.

Again, that’s why it’s good to see a doctor, because they can run a blood panel to rule in or out of many conditions.

These all need to be dealt with in their own ways, so there’s no one specific treatment plan for someone with an underlying condition. Some conditions like anemia are relatively easy to fix (e.g. iron supplements and/or a better diet), while others need to be managed with medication.

Let’s say you’re positive that you don’t have any other condition. In that case, let’s move on to the next stage...

Sleep Hygiene Education

You may have read all about sleep hygiene already, but it’s always worth going back to.

Sleep hygiene gets your body and mind in the right state for sleep, which makes it the foundation of sleep quality.

I’ve written an extensive guide to sleep hygiene for insomnia that outlines how to do all the most important aspects like:

  • Setting a sleep schedule
  • Making sure your room is dark enough
  • Wearing ear plugs or an eye mask if needed
  • The optimal sleep temperature
  • Foods to avoid (e.g. caffeine, alcohol)
  • Minimizing blue light exposure at night

You don’t need to have perfect sleep hygiene, but it better be really good if you’re someone with sleep issues. You can always lighten up later if you’re too strict initially.

Fix Any Incorrect Attitudes About Sleep

At this point, you’ve ruled out any obvious physical and environmental causes of insomnia.

That leaves a mindset issue, which is extremely common.

In my case, I couldn’t get my mind to shut up until I really worked at it. A good place to start is to take our free online sleep anxiety test.

If you suspect this is your issue, there are only a few good courses of action:

  • General relaxation activities - There’s some evidence that things like yoga, meditation, and massage therapy can all help relax the body and mind and improve sleep quality. This likely won’t be a complete fix by itself, but can help you identify if stress is an issue for you.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi) - By far the most effective and safest treatment for insomnia in general is CBTi. It involves examining thoughts about sleep that cause you stress and anxiety and essentially restructuring them in a better way. This is the approach that I took myself and it eventually led me to a great level of sleep quality.

While CBT is ideally done in-person, the cost of CBT can be an issue.

Research has shown that both group CBT and online CBT for insomnia are almost as effective, so they are great options if your budget is limited.

How long does it take to see results from CBT?

CBT is relatively hard work, and can be an uncomfortable process. However, if you take it seriously, most people start to see results within weeks, and those results are long-lasting. Just know that it’s not some magical pill you can take, as it takes time to go through those thought patterns and “rewire” them.

What Else Can You Do About Insomnia?

What if all that doesn’t work?

There’s only one other option really: go see a doctor.

Even if they tell you all the same things, they can also refer you for a sleep study, and prescribe sleep medication. In general sleep medication is a last resort because it’s not always effective and comes with side effects, but if nothing else is working, then it may be the best option.

Medical Disclaimer: The information on is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.

About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.