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Insomnia

You may find it odd that a feature of life with which everyone is familiar, on occasion or from time to time, is listed as a problem.

The truth is that lack of sleep may be a complicating factor in coping with times of stress. Additionally some people have developed styles and patterns which deny them sleep.

The positive side of this dilemma is that now a great deal more is known about sleep and some of the things which improve or induce it without the use of medication. This page addresses a few concepts and remedial activities.

Forms of insomnia

Normal

  • Waking early
  • Difficulty in getting to sleep for a period of time
  • Prolonged, disturbed and light sleep
  • Sleep which is interrupted by shock and fear on sudden waking (night terror)
  • Sleep which is interrupted by nightmares
  • Small amounts of sleep with cat napping at other times
  • Occasional complete absence of sleep

Not so normal

  • Any of the above which becomes chronic
  • Sleep which has a radically disordered rhythm
  • Disturbance caused by shift work
  • Seasonally affected sleep eg excessive sleep in winter
  • Sleep disturbance associated with feeling depressed
  • Jetlag
  • Apnoea (a sort of snoring but with a breathing lapse involved)
  • Snoring problems
  • Teeth grinding

Strategies for addressing insomnia

Basically strategies to beat insomnia fall into these main categories:

  • Changing your night-time routine
  • Preparing the body for sleep
  • Behaviour conducive to sleep

Getting help from others

  • Check with your doctor to assess whether you have a disordered pattern. This is particularly the case with abnormal sleep
  • Contact us to talk with a counsellor about issues which impinge on your sleep
  • Consider referral to a sleep clinic if matters are advanced

Change your night-time routine

  • Noise - ear plugs, 'white noise' background distraction
  • Temperature - not too hot, not too cold
  • Don't go to bed hungry
  • Try to modify late night drinking and go to the toilet in order to avoid being woken by a full bladder
  • Make your bed as comfortable as possible
  • Reduce mental activity two hours before sleep
  • Reduce light levels two hours before sleep
  • Have a range of distractions available for use in the event of insomnia - relaxed area away from the bed plus hot water bottle - light reading - something mechanical
  • Create a sleeping environment which has a freedom from work and disturbance eg screen off from essays

Preparing the body for sleep

  • Temperature maintenance
  • Decrease caffeine intake before sleep
  • Decrease alcohol intake before sleep
  • Avoid respiratory stimulants before sleep (cigarettes)
  • Avoid exercise before bedtime (increases stress response chemistry in many people)
  • Check for general sleep deprivation
  • Use diet and herbs to provide you with the chemistry which encourages sleep

Behaviour conducive to sleep

  • Keep sleep to limits; don't oversleep
  • Avoid long daytime napping
  • Don't allow too much sleeplessness to occur in bed
  • Get up and do light things until you feel drowsy again
  • Don't magnify or alarm yourself over your sleepless state
  • Keep a clutter free sleep area for sleep (and sex)
  • Consciously stop yourself worrying at night, write concerns down and deal with them in the morning
 
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