It will be easier to cure insomnia if we understand some basic principles about our sleep.
Why We Sleep
Most people think we sleep go give our body physical rest. However, that is only part of the reason. You could rest just by lying down in bed without being asleep. Or, perhaps, reading a book or watching TV should do, right?
Our sleep has many functions. However, from the physiological point of view, the major reason for humans to sleep is to repair our cells.
As with any mammal, the chemical process of our metabolism releases free radicals. These free radicals damage the structure of the cells in our bodies. To have a chance to repair our cells, our body needs to slow down its metabolism (i.e. slow down the release of free radicals). During the sleep period, not just our muscles are inactive, but also our digestive system, nervous system, etc.
For most jobs, performance is not deeply affected by the loss of one night’s sleep. However, lack of sleep can make crucial judgments or doing creative thinking very difficult.
Missing sleep on a regular basis is a different story. Insomnia is much more than loosing few nights of sleep.
Natural Sleep Pattern
There are several distinct phases of sleep.
A quiet, "deep sleep" phase is alternated with a relatively active, "REM" (Rapid-Rye-Movement) phase with dreams. The sleep phases interchange during the night.
When we are in the deep sleep phase, our brain processes slow down and we don't have any dreams. During other sleep phases, in particular the REM phase, our brain has a chance to capture day's events in our memory and we usually dream.
Many sleep problems, insomnia in particular, are caused by the disruption of the natural sleep pattern.
Waking Up With the Sleep Cycle
There are times when you wake up in the morning, and you feel absolutely great, without aching muscles, lethargic feeling or slow and moody state.
Then there are times when the alarm wakes you up, feeling heavy and groggy.
You sleep through the sleep stages and cycles, but if your alarm clock woke you up in the wrong (deep sleep) stage, it can be very hard to wake up. If only the alarm clock went off 30 minutes later, or earlier (in the REM sleep phase), getting up would be much easier.
Obviously, many of us don't really have a choice as to when we have to set that alarm clock. We have busy schedules, work places to get to, traffic to beat, etc. So the only way to wake up at the end of a sleep cycle is to do some trial and error testing with the time we go to sleep.
If you currently wake up feeling horrible, try going to sleep 20 minutes earlier, or 20 minutes later, 40 minutes earlier, or 40 minutes later than you usually do. By doing this, you'll eventually find a "hot spot" for waking up at the end of your cycle.
Keep in mind that your sleep cycle may fluctuate over time, especially if you are trying to apply various insomnia treatment suggestions from this site at the same time. Therefore you may want to try experimenting with this technique. Once you get a solid sleep cycle pattern happening, adjust it occasionally.