Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder and is defined as trouble falling or staying asleep. Insomnia afflicts people of all ages, most often for a night or two, but sometimes for weeks, months or even years. It's estimated that 35% of adults suffer from insomnia at some stage of their lives.

Insomnia can be either primary (not as a result of another disorder) or secondary (when it is a symptom of something else like being unable to sleep due to back pain. A diagnosis of insomnia usually includes a sleep symptom, such as difficulty getting to or staying asleep and an awake symptom such as daytime sleepiness or fatigue.

An important first-line of treatment for insomnia is an evaluation of sleep practices (sleep hygiene) and before any treatment is undertaken it is important to rule out any medical causes such as chronic pain or psychological causes such as depression.

One of the commonest reasons for sleeplessness is anxiety.

One of the commonest reasons for sleeplessness is anxiety. This doesn't imply a pathological state, but rather simply that we are worried about something. When we have a busy day we often don't have time to deal with some of the stresses and worries that occur. But if we don't deal with these during the day, as soon as we go to bed and try to sleep our mind will immediately go to these issues. As soon as we do this our mind becomes alert and we cannot get to sleep. On the other hand, it may be that we are so tired that we will actually fall asleep quite quickly only to wake up a few hours later to immediately start thinking about these issues.

However by implementing some simple steps your ability to get to sleep and to stay asleep may be improved significantly. If you have had a busy and stressful day make sure you factor in some exercise - maybe walk the dog, or get off the bus one stop earlier. When you get home devote some time, no longer than 30 minutes, to thinking about the issues of the day and perhaps write them down, along with any potential solutions, in a book. Importantly, when you finish, close the book and put it way. Not only are you physically putting aside your worries, but you have now managed to deal with your concerns, rather than waiting until going to sleep. And, as always, good sleep practices are a must for good sleep.

Research also shows that a very effective treatment of insomnia is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.