Failing sleep – broken sleep patterns and insomnia
by Danny Hickling BSc UKCP Registed Psychotheraputic counsellor MBACP
Sleep is known to be a vital part of one’s well-being; a good nights sleep can lead to lower stress levels long-term statistically and increasing health. However are growing proportion of the population are having trouble retaining enough sleep. A recent poll five 6/10 of us on able to get enough sleep.(1)
The reasons for this lack of sleep fall into two categories the first category is ‘Life Style’ .
Longer working hours-variable shifts-added increase in use of technology in the evenings that stimulates our minds at a time of day when our bodies would naturally be slowing down have led to this pattern of declining sleep. A recent study at Oxford university concluded that they were getting 1 to 2 hours less sleep than our counterparts 60 years ago. (1)
The focus of this article is on an involuntary lack of sleep (insomnia) were we find it difficult to get to sleep or awake in the early hours after she me sleep and can’t return to sleep.
Obvious remedies in the past have included associating the bedroom with sleep and harmonious relationships only-this means ridding the bedroom of devices which stimulate the mind such as work related items – TV, computers etc .
Insomnia is often associated with Anxiety, Stress and Depression. In all these conditions early morning waking can be associated with negative thinking and ruminating which often sets one up for a bad day ahead – long before it had ever started.
Below are a few tips for helping with insomnia.
Waking in the night –
Our nights sleep is made up of differing sleep cycles. We pass arefirst stage of sleep calleed REM sleep in which we may dream to a deeper state of sleep called stage two sleep. As we pass through these natural Stages of sleep we are more prone to Wake momentarily. If we are suffering from lack of sleep often unconsciously its at this point that we start the process of ‘mulling over’ over our current problems or worrying about our lack of sleep we are much more prone to start ruminate on how little time we have to sleep we have before the morning arrives. Therefore it is best to try to learn to avoid looking at our alarm clock when we awake for the brief moment – and accept this as part of the natural nights sleep.
Hold an awareness of all that is in contact with the bed –
Feel the sensation the air makes as it fills your lungs and passes through your nose – try to acknowledge that you are having thoughts but allow them to pass through without choosing to engage with them – this takes practice – the results mean you are able to engage with a thought when it’s useful and at a time that you choose – in the mean time thoughts can pass through rather like clouds might pass through the sky.
The following breathing technique suggested by the national sleep council has a natural tranquillising effect-it kick starts the parasympathetic nervous system slowing down both the mind and the body down thus promoting sleep.
1. Sit up with your back straight and place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there throughout the entire exercise.
2. Practice exhaling with your tongue in this position. It will be easier if you purse your lips.
3. close your mouth and inhale through your nose as you slowly count to 4.
4. Hold your breath for the count of 7.
5. Exhale slowly through your mouth to the count of 8.
6. Repeat 4 times and try to be consistent with the counting.
7. Repeat every evening before bed. (3)
Whilst it is renowned for making many people sleepy so therefore alcohol is often overlooked as a cause of sleeplessness – alcohol can; if taken early evening, with dinner or within an hour of bed have a negative effect on sleep – it can affect the restful sequences of sleep and can lead to an increase in wakefulness especially in the REM dreaming stage and making the return to sleep after this difficult. (4) Increased consumption to counteract this effect can lead to a reduction of the sleep whilst it’s disruptive effects can continue or increase (5) inducing effects of the alcohol and lead to daytime fatigue.
Supplements such as omega three and oil found in all the fish salmon and tuna have been shown to help. Recently a study on children found that children given a supplement of omega three slept one hours per night compared to the placebo group 2
Other natural remedies include camomile tea taken effect on which is shown with preliminary studies to have anti anxiety properties. A few drops of lavender oil on the w pillow also useful for Sam this oil has been shown to decrease by heart rate and BP helping you relax 1.
I hope some of these tips help – if you would like to work on some of the psychological elements of your insomnia or techniques to help with underlying anxiety or depression a Local Counsellor or Psychotherapist will be able to advise you.
Danny Hickling is a Counsellor Psychotherapist based in Norfolk who also works with clients around the UK and Europe via SKYPE & telephone clients.
1 Daily mail June 1, 2015 P 35
3 adapted from http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/how-to-sleep/relaxation-and-breathing/
4 Landolt, H.-P., et al. Late-afternoon ethanol intake affects nocturnal sleep and the sleep EEG in middle-aged men. J Clin Psychopharmacol 16(6):428-436, 1996.
5 Vitiello, M.V. Sleep, alcohol and alcohol abuse. Addict Biol (2):151-158, 1997.