Sleep is something you normally look forward to. A time to rest and recharge your batteries, to take you into the next day alert and full of energy. However, sometimes the process of sleeping may be arduous and less than restful.
Most people experience periods when they find it difficult to sleep. Perhaps you’re stressed, or travelling from a different time zone, or just don’t know why you can’t sleep. These times are transitory and are little more than an inconvenience.
However, your periods of sleeplessness may become more than transitory and develop into a recurring pattern when you are trying to get to sleep.
There are basically three types of insomnia:
Initial sleep difficulties:
You have difficulty falling asleep when you first go to bed.
Intermediate sleep difficulties:
You fall asleep when you first go to bed, but awaken in the middle of the night. Once you awaken you find it difficult to return to sleep.
Early morning awakening:
You sleep throughout the night, but awaken much earlier than you normally would, feeling unrefreshed and sleepy. Typically you’re not able to return to sleep.
There could be many reasons why you are experiencing insomnia, but eventually the insomnia becomes a habit – a faulty sleeping strategy, as it were.
Develop a healthy sleeping strategy
Deal with any underlying issues contributing to your insomnia.
What was happening in your life when the insomnia first started?
Was there a trigger point for the insomnia, and is this still an issue for you?
Do you eat a meal too close to your bedtime?
Going to sleep on a full stomach is not a good idea. You can feel uncomfortable and the process of digestion may interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Ideally, you should not eat for two to three hours prior to going to bed.
Do you drink a caffeine drink before bed?
This may seem so obvious, but you may be surprised by the number of people who come for therapy for insomnia who drink coffee or some other caffeinated drink just before going to bed. Remember – caffeine is a stimulant that keeps you awake. If you have a drink before going to bed, make sure that you look at the label of what you are drinking to ensure that it is caffeine free.
Do you nap during the day?
If you do, you could be using up your quota of sleep before you get to bed. Try cutting out the napping and see what happens to your sleep.
Do you drink alcohol close to your bedtime?
You may think that a little night-time tipple helps you to sleep. Wrong! Even though alcohol is basically an anesthetic, it can act as a stimulant in small doses. So have your last alcoholic drink a couple of hours before going to sleep. Oh, and don’t think that you can drink more alcohol so that you are anaesthetized into sleep! Alcohol-induced sleep is not the same as natural sleep and you still wake up unrefreshed in the morning.
Are you overestimating the amount of sleep you think you need?
Try going to bed a little later. See what happens.
Banning anything except sleep from the bedroom.
That means no eating, drinking, watching TV, reading, or sex when in bed. You want tore-associate the bed with sleep and only sleep. Any other activity can be done elsewhere – and that includes sex, so why not spice up your relationship and get amorous in the kitchen or the living room? And don’t worry, once you’re sleeping well then all these activities can once again return to the boudoir.
Going to bed at the same time each night.
Develop a regular pattern.
Getting up and doing something else if you can’t sleep.
If you awaken and aren’t able to get to sleep again, get out of bed and go and do some-thing else. The great hypnotherapist Milton Erickson had his insomnia patients polish their kitchen floor over and over again, no matter what the time of night it was! When you’re feeling sleepy again, return to your bed. By doing this you associate your bed with sleepiness and eventually sleep.
Writing down any worries or concerns before you go to bed.
This is called externalizing. Writing down any worries or concerns helps to remove them from your mind, increasing your chance of focusing on sleep, rather than stress.