Insomnia is a potentially serious sleep disorder that affects millions of Americans. If insomnia prevents you from getting the sleep you need, this article will give you some tips for dealing with it.
But first, a short description of a typical night of insomnia:
I yawn, stretch my arms behind my head, and lie there staring at the ceiling. I've been in my bed for several minutes. Ahhh, the peace and quiet is all around me.
The bedroom is dark. My children are all asleep. It's such an expansive moment for my mind, and it seems to fill the entire room.
Okay, it's been twenty minutes now. The meditative, peaceful moment has passed. By now, my brain seems to be filling up like a bowl subjected to a torrential downpour.
I can't seem to empty out my mind. There are so many things to think about, including "why in the world can't I fall asleep?"
I'm very tired, but I can't get to sleep! I start to feel agitated and become restless. I turn this way, then that way. I cross my legs, then uncross them. I lie on my stomach, then flip onto my back. Now my side.
Each passing moment leads to increased anger and frustration. My mind has suddenly jumped ahead to tomorrow, thinking about all the things I need to get done, all the while knowing that I'll only be able to do so by dragging this exhausted and fatigued body around for the entire day.
This process goes deeply into the night. Insomnia has decided to pay me a visit yet again!
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you're in the company of millions of other insomniacs.
It's estimated that about 25 million Americans have to deal with chronic insomnia. Some of the most common reasons for insomnia include:
I suggest that you consult with your doctor in order to determine the exact cause of your inability to sleep. He/she will possibly order a sleep study, screen you for depression, check for social stressors, order a set of blood tests to check for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, or recommend that you stop drinking.
- Sleep Apnea
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Alcohol and other drug abuse
- Life changes and/or accumulation of life stressors
- Circadian Rhythm Disorders
In short, your physician will attempt to identify the cause of your insomnia and get you focused on appropriate solutions.
In the meantime, here are some tips to help you regain your sleep:
Frequent sleepless nights often cause what feels like a psychotic break. This is why good self care is so important. After just two sleepless nights, intervention is necessary!
- When you go to bed, alter your breathing patterns. Inhale and exhale for five seconds each. You'll be taking 6 breaths each minute. This takes a bit of practice but it works very well.
- Take a deep breath and hold it in. Now tense up the muscles throughout your whole body for 30 seconds while holding your breath. Next, exhale completely and relax your muscles. Take several normal breaths and repeat the process three times.
- Select a relaxing color (yellow, blue, green, etc). Put your hands on your stomach and imagine that you're expanding a colored balloon inside your belly. Exhale an insomnia/anxiety related color (black, red, etc) through your mouth.
Repeat this process 5, 10, or 50 times, however many it takes. And remember, it's impossible to focus on your body and your breath while entertaining varying thoughts.
- Take a hot bath right before going to bed, or get back up and do it if you're unable to fall asleep within 15 minutes.
- Eat some "sleep food". Before going to bed, eat one ounce of cheese, one ounce of protein, and five grapes or the equivalent.
- Get back out of bed if you haven't fallen asleep within 15 minutes. Your brain is programmed quite easily. You don't want your brain to associate "being in bed" with "awake."
- Once you're out of bed, don't use the computer, watch television, listen to stimulating music, turn on bright lights, or do anything else that will stimulate your brain into action.
- Sit quietly, meditate on emptying your mind. Listen to low, soothing music, or do a little "light" reading. Research indicates that deep meditation is just as restorative for the body as sleep and takes less time than sleeping a full eight hours.
- Buy a Brain Entrainment CD and a pair of ear buds. (Don't use a boom box. The ear buds work best.) Make sure the CD is designed for helping you get to sleep. Your brain needs to be in the delta wave state for about 60 minutes in order for you to wake up feeling fresh.
- Make sure your bedroom is completely dark. Turn off all the lights, the TV, the computer, everything!
- Get regular exercise. Exercise does a great job of regulating our sleep cycles. Just be sure not to exercise within two hours of bedtime because it will activate mind and body systems that will keep you awake.
- Drink Chamomile Tea one hour before you go to bed, and take a bit of Valerian root along with it.
- If your insomnia is severe, consult a physician. There are many effective sleep enhancing medications that your doctor can prescribe.
- Never try to use alcohol as a sleep aid. Many insomniacs will tell you that a late-night drink helps them sleep. But brain wave studies indicate that once they're asleep, they never reach the restorative level of sleep that results in a well-rested feeling in the morning.
Be sure to take good care of yourself. A great night's sleep after long stretches of insomnia can be an absolutely wonderful gift to give yourself.
Dave Turo-Shields, ACSW, LCSW is a respected author, success coach, university faculty member, and veteran psychotherapist. Visit him at Overcoming-Depression.com.
More Interesting Articles