Insomnia can be described as difficulty in getting to sleep or in getting enough uninterrupted sleep so that we feel refreshed on waking. In the UK approximately 30% of all adults regularly suffer from insomnia or sleep deprivation.
If you experience insomnia you may find it difficult to drop off to sleep, causing you to lie awake instead of sleeping, or you may find it difficult to stay asleep, waking frequently, leading to fitful or restless sleep.
Whilst most people experience insomnia occasionally, when it becomes persistent or chronic it can begin to affect other areas of your health and wellbeing. Most noticeable sufferers can find it difficult to stay awake during the daytime, experience difficulty in maintaining concentration and focus, affecting relationships with others and resulting in general fatigue and low mood.
The most common cause of sleeplessness is a ‘racing mind’, where we let our thoughts run away with us. Frequently we are thinking about the things that might happen tomorrow, or are mulling over things that have happened in the previous day. We may even be kept awake by thinking about how long we’ve been lying there not sleeping!
Other factors affecting sleep include the physical environment in which we sleep. The most common environmental factors affecting sleep are physical discomfort (pain or temperature, for example), noise, light levels and our partner’s sleeping behaviour.
Working with insomnia clients we have found the following factors helpful in improving the quality of sleep:
Stick to the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends
This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. This can be hard if you’re tired and want to sleep in on the weekends, but for many people it helps to set an alarm and wake up at the same time every day.
Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon
A power nap may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
Exercise, but not close to bedtime
Exercising can help regulate your body and make you sleep better, but working out too close to bedtime can activate you and make it harder to settle into sleep.
Evaluate your room
Make sure you have a clean, comfortable, quiet, and dark sleep space. Use a sound machine or a fan to block noise from inside or outside the house, and install darkening blinds for street-lights and morning light.
Limit activities in bed
The bed is for sleeping and having sex and that’s it! If you suffer from insomnia, do not study, or make phone calls, for example, while in bed or even in the bedroom, and avoid watching television or listening to the radio. All these activities can increase alertness and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening
Alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes can disrupt sleep, and eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort that can make it hard to sleep.
Write down your worries and concerns
Deal with worries or a heavy workload by making lists of things to be tackled the next day. If you tend to lie in bed thinking about tomorrow’s tasks, set aside time before bedtime to review the day and make plans for the next day. The goal is to avoid doing these things when you’re in bed, trying to sleep.
If you can’t sleep, don’t lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again, then return to bed.
Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.
For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop, tablet or watching TV can make it hard to fall asleep. This is because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is stimulating to the brain…so it is best to avoid this prior to sleep.
Have a warm drink (e.g. warm milk) or a bath, approx 1 hour before sleep.
Once in bed progressively focus on and relax each part of your body.
We use a personalised approach with each client to identify the specific reasons for sleep disturbance and the actions to take to address these. Frequently these can be straightforward, such as the steps outlined above and occasionally more significant lifestyle changes are required.
We also use hypnotherapy to help develop a deep relaxation response. We teach our clients to use the same relaxation techniques themselves to help them fall asleep more easily. We also provide a guided relaxation audio programme which clients have found particularly helpful in improving the quality of their sleep.
Take advantage of Free Initial Consultation to find out if hypnotherapy can help you with your sleep problems.