Insomnia can be caused by a variety of reasons for example; medical conditions and biological factors such as asthma pain, sleep apnea, over-thinking being related to feeling worried or anxious and this can interfere and create negative self-talk like “I am never going to be able to sleep” and this reinforces the problem. It can be triggered by unhealthy sleep habits as well as conditions like depression or anxiety.
Research on insomnia has discovered that when your brain is unable to sleep (we all have a sleep and wake cycle) and one section is disturbed then we develop habits that interfere with the natural flow of our sleep pattern. Research has also highlighted that in some cases insomnia may be caused by neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible and influence our sleep and wakefulness cycles.
When you are unable to fall or stay asleep it is often linked to over thinking during times when everything is quiet and you are least active. It is very common to become fearful when you cannot sustain a whole night’s sleep, you may even dread the very thought of going to bed, sadly this leads to more anxiety and panic as the two behaviours support one another.
When you can’t sleep, this can permeate every area of your life and drag you down. Sleep deprivation can lead to health difficulties. A lack of sleep prevents your brain from functioning correctly and over time this can affect your cognitive and emotional states.
The following problems also can result from a deficit of sleep,
- Memory problems.
- A weakened immune response.
- Weight gain.
- Type 2 Diabetes.
- High blood pressure.
- Heart disease.
- Susceptibility to colds and flu.
The purpose of sleep is to allow your body to improve your mental and physical health, in teenagers and children hormones that stimulate growth are discharged during sleep. These hormones help build muscle mass repair cells and tissue. Sleep is really important to aid the development of puberty. Whilst asleep your brain rests and forms new pathways for neurons to develop, and you are also producing proteins that repair cells.
You know that when you don’t get enough sleep you feel sluggish and you may be susceptible to negative thinking finding it hard to concentrate as well as impairing your decision-making and creativity. Another side effect can be that you are more liable to have mood swings and be short tempered. When a lack of sleep persists you may experience “micro sleeps” which happen for only a few seconds or minutes when you don’t realise it and this is dangerous especially if you are driving, it can also make you more prone to injury as you may trip and fall over.
How therapy helps
When your sleep pattern is disturbed on a regular basis it is important to explore what may be causing this,'for example, is it a medical issue' or have you established a habit that may be contributing to disturbed sleep. It is extremely important to explore your habits and then implement new structures. Some changes that you may need to alter are;
- Turning off your TV half an hour before bed time this allows your brain to wind down.
- Avoiding exposing yourself to glowing electronic screens a few hours before bedtime and limit distractions.
- Stick to a schedule by allowing your body to relax before you go to bed as frequent changes to the time you go to bed and wake up confuses your biological clock.
- Learn to separate your bedroom for the other facets of your life as these may cause stress, tension or stimulation.
- Create a calm place to relax, is your bedroom the perfect place to rest? If not look at what needs to change, the light? the noise? Aim to keep the temperature of your bedroom comfortable and cool, and the ambience serene and calming.
- Avoid drinking alcohol three hours before bedtime this is a sedative and it stimulates tiredness and disturbs sleep quality. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine that may act as a stimulant.
It is no surprise that we need good quality sleep as much as we need air to breath and nutritious meals. It’s vital to address sleep issues, do not let a lack of sleep become your norm.
Good sleep is vital to the production of positive neurotransmitters and endorphins. It’s of the utmost importance that you learn new techniques and establish a positive sleep hygiene routine by investigating and implementing change.