In recent years, though, thanks to media attention and educational campaigns, there's been a growing awareness about the importance of sleep and its impact on our health and productivity.
That's because those who've been dealing with sleep difficulties for long periods of time often forget the initial catalyst or don't realize the extent of the problem, says Dr. Ana Krieger, director of the NYU School of Medicine Sleep Disorders Center and co-leader of the extended-stay chain AKA's Sleep School seminars.
Beyond not recognizing what's wrong, many people also unknowingly learn self-perpetuating behaviors or come up with solutions that hurt more than help.
"When you look at people who are having problems sleeping, a lot of the logical things they are doing to fix the situation actually end up making it worse," says Philip Gehrman, an assistant professor of psychology at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia who treats people with insomnia.
That list includes taking naps, going to bed early and staying in bed when you can't get to sleep. While it makes sense to take a nap if you're sleep deprived, Gehrman says the practice interferes with your overall sleep drive and makes it harder for you to fall asleep at night. Going to bed early may seem like a way to get some extra sleep, but not if your new bedtime goes against your circadian rhythm, which prevents you from being able to sleep equally well at all times of the day. Likewise, staying in bed when sleep eludes you tends to only increase your performance anxiety, making it harder for you to get the rest you need.