Are you one of those people who struggle to get to sleep? You’re so very tired all day, but the minute your head hits the pillow you’re wide awake with your mind running riot. Perhaps you get to sleep easily enough, but wake in the middle of the night, disoriented, and can’t drop off again because you’ve got too much chatter in your head. Maybe you don’t have insomnia by its technical definition – when you struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep or wake up not feeling refreshed at least 3 nights a week for 3 months, but you’re definitely struggling and missing your usual zest for life.
If you’re struggling with sleep, you’re not alone. Sleep experts estimate that waking in the middle of the night affects roughly 25% of the population. Even more people just simply struggle to get to sleep. We all know how important sleep is to our wellbeing. The link between the quality of sleep that we get and our mental health is not new. Researchers are currently investigating if it’s the trouble sleeping that causes the mental health struggles or vice versa. So far they have identified that not getting sufficient rest means you are more likely to make poor decisions, struggle with self-control and you’ll feel more isolated and withdrawn.
So what can we do about it?
The first thing to do when trying to improve your sleep is to look at your sleep hygiene. This includes assessing your bedroom and making cool, quite, dark and comfortable. Limiting screen time and intense physical activity in the hours immediately preceding bedtime is also essential.
Next, it’s important to understand what a ‘normal’ sleep pattern is, and surprisingly it seems as though that golden standard of ‘8 hours uninterrupted sleep’ isn’t the norm that we all assume it is. We got through cycles as we sleep, with each cycle consisting of a phase of REM sleep (dreaming), non-REM deep sleep and lighter non-REM periods. As the night progresses we may wake up for a while.
You may find that the worry that accompanies waking up in the middle of the night passes if you use the time productively, perhaps writing a to-do list or getting all the swirling thoughts out onto paper, or you could actually get up and do something for a while until you feel sleepy again. By focusing on something other than the time passing and the not sleeping, you remove some of the stress from the situation and may find it easier to return to bed; catching those crucial extra hours of sleep before the day begins.
The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) says that insomnia responds well to hypnotherapy, with many clients report significantly improved sleep after treatment. By uncovering and addressing the areas of stress and tension in your life you remove the cause of the not sleeping. When you work with a hypnotherapist they may teach you self-hypnosis or meditation techniques to use before going to bed, or while in bed.
If you’re struggling to sleep, use the NCH therapist finder to find a trained and insured professional near you who can help.