Coping with Sleeplessness and Insomnia
Many of us suffer with periods of poor sleep, where we spend endless hours staring at the alarm clock as we struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep, or we find ourselves waking up much too early and then feeling exhausted throughout the day as our time in bed failed to leave us feeling refreshed. When this pattern repeats, these periods of poor sleep can build up into a cycle of anxiety about sleep in general, and thus we can get into a vicious cycle.
The symptoms I have described can be diagnosed as insomnia when they occur regularly each week for at least a month and cause distress, and they are of concern as they can lead to problems functioning during the day. We all know how short tempered we become when we are tired, and how tough it is to get even the simplest of tasks completed. Some days it can feel like we are wading through treacle when all we really need is some good quality sleep. As a counsellor, I often see that poor sleep is additionally associated with anxiety and depression, and therefore disrupted patterns of sleep can be indicative of other problems in a client’s life.
Our dream patterns are also important, as dreams are in effect a form of stress control where the patterns of stress arousal during the day are worked through in the brain and in a sense ‘deactivated’. In normal sleep, we fall into REM or dream sleep about every 90 minutes, with around 2 hours a night spent dreaming; but if a person is depressed they can have excessive dream sleep, which leads to higher stress arousal and exhaustion. Some anti-depressants reduce our amount of dream-sleep, as does a pattern of the brain naturally starting to wake earlier than normal. It is therefore both the amount and the quality of our sleep that we need to pay attention to.
If you are finding that your sleep patterns have been changing for the worse lately, and your GP has ruled out a physical cause, then here are some tips to help you recondition your mind and body back into a good sleep pattern:
If the subject matter in this article resonates with you, then counselling might be a good option to help you to move forward. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you.