Sleep Disorders- Sleeping Problems- Symptoms of Insomnia
You're not alone. Everyone at some point in their life will experience some sleep problems. It's not surprising really given on average we need 7 hours of sleep in any 24 hour period.
Sleep problems include getting too much, not enough, not getting to sleep, waking up and still feeling tired, or having interrupted sleep. Sleep problems can be temporary or long-term and even in some instances life threatening. They are more common among women (especially menopausal), the ill, the elderly, smokers, alcoholics and surprisingly common among young people.
Main causes of sleep problems include:
- States of mind – anxiety, depression, worry, anger, grief, anticipating a difficult event
- Change – moving house/city, starting a new course or new job
- Environment – noise, discomfort, temperature, time zone change
- Pain – one of the commonest causes
- Medical conditions – problems with the heart, breathing, stomach, digestion, high blood pressure, arthritis, anorexia, tinnitus.
- Recreational drugs including nicotine, caffeine, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD and cannabis
- Sleeping pills and tranquillisers – can actually cause sleep disturbance
- Other prescription drugs including some contraceptives, diuretics, slimming pills, beta-blockers and stimulants
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep problems and is a general term used for conditions which leave people tired during the day because of trouble falling/staying asleep. Insomnia lasting at least one year is a precursor to the development of anxiety and depression disorders. However, it's not clear whether insomnia contributes directly to mental disorders, or factors that eventually lead to these disorders also disrupt sleep. While it is not an illness and is in no way life-threatening, insomnia can be very distressing, frustrating, exhausting, and depressing for the sufferer and those around them.
There are two main types of insomnia: chronic insomnia which lasts for several weeks, months or even years; and transient insomnia – lasting for a few nights or weeks only, usually connected to a stressful event e.g. an exam, or a bereavement.
Within these two broad categories insomnia usually takes one or more of the following forms:
- Difficulty falling asleep – more common among young people and may be associated with depression
- Sleeping lightly and restlessly, waking often, lying awake in the middle of the night – more common in people over 40.
- Waking early and being unable to get back to sleep – this is more common in older people and anyone worrying about something.
People experience common symptoms associated with insomnia. These include being tired during the day, frequent headaches, irritability or lack of concentration, are tired and not refreshed on waking, take longer than 30-40 minutes to fall asleep, wake repeatedly, wake too early and are unable to get back to sleep, or only get to sleep with the aid of sleeping pills or alcohol.
There are lots of reasons why people find it difficult falling/staying asleep. Here are a few things you can do:
- Try to find and address any causes/triggers
- Try to find and address any stressors
- Is your bed comfortable?
- Is your bedroom dark enough? If not, try thicker curtains, eye mask, etc.
- Noise? e.g. neighbours, partner who snores. Try ear plugs
- Temperature of room?
- Diet – very rich foods & alcohol can interfere with sleep. Some foods aid sleep e.g. carbohydrate-high meal 2 hours before bed, and drinking either a warm milky drink, herbal teas, especially camomile, or hot water at bedtime. Relax mentally and physically for an hour before bedtime
- Establish a routine
- Only go to bed when tired
- Get up and do something (not too mentally taxing or stimulating) if you can't sleep
- If you are a late sleeper, force yourself to get up earlier
- Get up at the same time each day
- Have a warm bath, do some yoga or take a light walk
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones e.g. "I can sleep/get back to sleep"
- Exercise regularly
- Lavender scent helps – you can get non-staining sprays for pillows
- Don't try too hard to sleep – it is paradoxical. Instead 'let go'.
Here are some things to avoid to help manage insomnia:
- Sleeping during the day no matter how tired you are
- Going to bed when you are stressed, wound up or not ready
- Having arguments at bedtime or in bed
- Using bed for working, watching TV, eating, telephoning
- Lying in bed awake for more than 30 minutes
- Eating, drinking or smoking when you get up during the night
- Falling asleep in front of the TV
- Drinking too much liquid towards the end of the evening
- Worrying about not sleeping or getting angry
- Stimulants e.g. coffee and tea, alcohol, nicotine, cola drinks, food additives, 'junk food', slimming pills or appetite suppressants
Some causes of insomnia are due to long standing habits; so behaviourally and cognitively often difficult to change behaviours. Here hypnotherapy can be very useful in helping to change deep seated and seeming impenetrable issues with positive long lasting effects.
Hypnotherapists are trained to not only assess and treat the symptoms/consequences of insomnia, but also examine what causes/triggers it. What might be causing insomnia for one person may not be relevant for someone else, so treating clients as individuals is important.
During the first session especially, a hypnotherapist will be asking effective questions to get you to explore your particular reasons for experiencing insomnia. Once you both have information to work with, your hypnotherapist can start to help you to manage these triggers/causes. Whilst insomnia can be relieved temporarily using alcohol and sleeping pills, they can be dangerous if taken together, and sleeping pills can be addictive. Psychological interventions have proved very effective with insomniacs, including relaxation training, stress management, and psychotherapy.
The aim of hypnotherapy is to break the cycle of insomnia. This can be achieved by working to establish a good bedtime/sleep routine and by reinforcing the connection between bed and sleep.
There are various methods of doing this with hypnotherapy. For example, your hypnotherapist will be helping you to remember times of having a good night's sleep and either during non-trance state or during trance, anchor this experience. They will be encouraging you to develop and maintain a good daily routine. You may be encouraged to adopt a relaxation routine of self-hypnosis and be encouraged to incorporate it into your daily life. In later sessions you may want to try age regression to go back to the first incident of experiencing trouble with sleeping and with all the resources you now have, resolve that situation. NLP techniques are also very effective in helping to break the cycle by removing any blocks to sleeping/waking.
During trance, your hypnotherapist will offer suggestions and help you to create resource anchors to help you sleep, such as recalling in great detail a favourite painting, piece of music, or favourite place; imagine a storm raging outside while you are safe and warm in bed; visualise yourself sinking into your bed until you can't tell where your body ends and the bed begins; make your mind a complete blank then imagine a pleasant colour and prevent it from taking any form. These will be tailored to the individual interests and preferences of each client, and you may be encouraged to generate your own ideas during trance, of what may help you whilst you are relaxed and able to focus on finding solutions to your problem.
The initial assessment may uncover confidence or low self-esteem as being triggers for insomnia. It is common for people feeling low in these areas to ruminate about certain things which prevent them from getting to sleep or cause disturbed sleep. For example, thinking too much about what people think about them, things people have said to them, and things they wished they'd said but didn't/couldn't. Here the hypnotherapist will assist to build your confidence and increase your self-esteem and give you useful techniques to help you cope and sleep better.
For those who have been suffering from insomnia for some time, there may also be signs of depression. The main signs to look out for are: waking in the middle of the night or early morning and unable to get back to sleep; loss of interest, energy and appetite; aggression and anti-social behaviour; and aches and pains that have no physical explanation.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering from insomnia, help is readily available to remedy the situation. It's not necessary to suffer in silence. Please Contact Us Now to find out how hypnotherapy could help you to gain a better nights sleep.