What is insomnia?
Do you toss and turn at night? Do you have a worry that stops you sleeping? Do you have anxiety about an event the next day that stops you from sleeping? Does that sound familiar to you? Most of us, at some time in our lives, will have problems with insomina. Lack of sleep can slowly become a problem if it happens night after night.
We need our sleep. It is important for both physical and psychological reasons and sleep deprivation can lead to fatigue, slower reaction times, irritability and other mood problems, and poor concentration. These in turn can affect our work, our relationships and the quality of lives.
Worry and Anxiety are the main causes of lack of sleep
Worry is the common and important factor in insomnia. When people worry about things they tend mentally to go over things repeatedly, without coming up with a solution to the problem. This leads to an increase in mental arousal which then prevents sleep. This can create a vicious circle where worry leads to insomnia, which creates more worry about the effects of sleeplessness, which leads to more sleep disturbance.
The second common factor that leads to insomnia is stress. Stressful life events such as divorce, death of a spouse or work problems can often trigger which may persist beyond adjustment to the event itself.
So what can you do?
If you are suffering from stress or anxiety then it is recommended that you identify and examine the problem that is triggering your lack of sleep, for example the stress at work. Talking therapy can give you time and space to talk through the issue and help you find a way of moving forward.
In the meantime, the following list gives you helpful tips to help you have a good night’s sleep.
- Do not eat after 6pm
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening
- Go to bed and wake up at a set time each evening and morning
- Avoid watching TV. or using computers/ipads the last hour before going to bed
- Take a warm bath an hour before you go to bed
- Ensure you have 30 minutes exercise every day
Worry List and time
One of the most useful tips that clients find useful is ‘worry list’. I encourage clients to either write of list of all their worries in the evening. It is then important to try and forget them for the evening. You leave them behind you when you go to bed. Trying to forget your worries is useful as it breaks the habit of dwelling on your worries at the present time.
Alternatively my clients find useful to have a ‘worry time’. They set a time for each day which gives them 20 minutes to have their worry time (it must not be after 5pm as it can disturb your sleep). During this time you are allowed to worry about whatever’s on your mind. The rest of the day is hopefully a worry-free zone.
In addition to your worry time you could try to challenge your worried thoughts using cognitive behavioural practice or practice mindfulness.
Try and have a worry time. Does it work for you?