It goes like this. You go to bed at 10:30 pm. You lay there content for awhile thinking about the funny thing a friend said or the new trick the dog learned. Maybe you turn over on to your side or your stomach and tuck yourself into the sheets fully intending to have a good night sleep.
Then you remember you forgot to put the clothes in the dryer and you need them for the morning. Well, maybe not. Maybe you can find something in your closet if you dig deep enough. You close your eyes again and think about the fight you had with your mom or your significant other. You think about the homework you didn’t do for the class you hate. You look at the clock, and its midnight, and you suddenly remember you have to get up early tomorrow because it’s your turn to bring the coffee. Now you are worried about being tired tomorrow because you aren’t going to get a good night’s sleep.
Alright, maybe if you go to sleep right this minute you can still get a good 6 hours before the alarm goes off. The second you close your eyes, your mind takes off on another tangent. You look at the clock again, and now it is 2:30 am. Perfect. Now you are looking at 3 hours of sleep if you go to sleep right now.
Finally, you drift off to sleep only to be startled by the sound of the alarm telling you it’s time to get up. You feel like you just went to sleep. You feel like you might cry.
Welcome to an insomniac’s nightmare.
The Insanity of Insomnia
Insomnia is a common condition. It is estimated that roughly 1/3 of the adult population suffers from chronic insomnia which results in a reduced quality of life. Insomnia is different
then a few sleepless nights. It must be persistent and last from 1 to 6 months. It is chronic if it lasts more than six months.
Impaired daytime functioning, higher health costs and increased loss of time for work are just a few of the problems sufferers face. Over time, insomnia leads to depression, anxiety, and increased use of hypnotic medication.
Sleep is vital to our health and wellness. Lack of sleep increases the time it takes to recover from illness and impedes our ability to concentrate.
In short, lack of sleep can make you feel like you are going insane.
Insomnia can occur for a number of reasons. Things like a noisy environment, shift work, substance abuse, illness, and age are all reasons for not getting a good night sleep.
There are some successful recommendations to help bring on those sweet dreams once again.
A group of researchers from the American Academy of Sleep reviewed scientific literature dating back to 1999 from the Sleep Academy. Their goal was to evaluate the effectiveness of non-pharmacological treatments of insomnia. They published their findings in Practice Parameters for the Psychological and Behavioral Treatment of insomnia: An Update. Their recommendations were developed based on the review using evidence-based methods. They determined that the behavioral interventions discussed below effectively treat insomnia.
What to Do
We live active lives and sometimes it is difficult to turn off the brain once you settle in for the night. These recommendations work but only if you practice them on a consistent basis. It often takes a few weeks practicing a new routine before it becomes effective.
If you have difficulty sleeping try these recommendations:
- Stimulus Control Therapy – This objective of this therapy is to train yourself to re-associate the bed and the bedroom with sleep and to re-establish a consistent sleep-wake schedule.
- Relaxation Training – This training involves methods aimed at reducing tension. Progressive muscle relaxation has been shown to be highly effective for reducing tension and stopping intrusive thoughts at bedtime.
- Sleep Restriction Training – This simply means if you are not asleep then get up. Do not lay in bed awake even if it is 3 am. Get up and go to another quiet part of the house. Leave the lights and the TV off and wait until you get sleepy again then go back to bed. Repeat.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – This is a behavioral therapy that is used for almost anything you want to change. The cognitive part aims to change your beliefs and attitudes about insomnia. The behavioral portion is the therapies mentioned above. For more information on CBT training for insomnia check out the National Sleep Foundation’s
- Paradoxical Intention – This method involves you remaining passively awake and actively avoiding any intention to fall asleep. The goal is to eliminate performance anxiety about falling asleep. Often while actively trying to avoid falling asleep, you accidentally fall asleep.
- Biofeedback – This therapy provides audio or visual feedback to help control muscle tension. It helps you understand how to completely relax so you can fall asleep when you go to bed.
- Regular Exercise – Regular exercise can improve both sleep quality and duration as long as you do not do it right before bedtime. Exercise should be completed at least 3 hours before
- Keep a Consistent Wake Time – This is important because it is part of the training you must do to get consistent sleep. Even though it is tempting to go back to sleep on the weekend, it is important to get up at the same time every
A good night sleep is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Your body stays healthier; your mind works better, and your mood is lighter. The world is easier to navigate.
So if you are struggling with insomnia, try some of these methods and see if you can get a better night sleep. Maybe some of you have something better that works for you; please share in the comments. Maybe your strategy will work for someone else.
al, M. e. (2006). Practice Parameter Paper. American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 29 (11).
Rubin, G. (2016, July 26). 5 Tips to Deal With Insomnia. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-happiness-project/201607/5-tips-deal-insomnia