Dear Dr. Bill,
I am an exhausted 18-year-old! I get up each morning at 5am for school and my parents are strict about a 10pm bedtime. But no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, it takes me a minimum of 2 hours to fall asleep each night. That’s only 5 hours, and when I wake up I’m REALLY tired and feel like falling asleep in class, which really annoys my teachers. What do you suggest?
All of us suffer from insomnia occasionally. But it sounds like your insomnia is a chronic problem that interferes with your sleep every night. The first thing you need to do is make an appointment with your family physician to rule out any physical causes. If your doctor gives you a clean bill of health, then the insomnia is likely caused by anxiety or depression. Both of those conditions can wreak havoc on our sleep.
Anxiety can lead us to us to lie awake for hours thinking about things that concern or worry us. Depression causes a change in our brain chemistry which can lead to insomnia or another phenomenon called “early morning awakening.” Like the name implies, a person wakes up in the early morning hours and have difficulty falling back asleep.
Ask yourself this question… could you possibly be anxious about school, a relationship, or something going on in your family? Could you be experiencing symptoms of depression such as sadness, lack of energy, or feelings of hopelessness?
If so, you should talk to your parents about what you are feeling. They love you and need to know if you are experiencing something stressful in your life.
You might also contact the Counseling Department at Focus on the Family. The counselors there are personal friends of mine and can help you get to the root of the problem. You can reach them at 1-800-A-FAMILY.
Thanks for writing, Carlie.
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