Insomnia & Sleeplessness

insomnia, sleeplessness, unable to sleep, can't sleep, better sleep

Insomnia and sleeplessness is a pain!

I should know because in my early twenties I suffered badly from insomnia. I was plagued by sleeplessness. I found it difficult to relax and fall asleep easily. I would often go to bed tense and not at all relaxed, then I would go through a post mortem of the day in my head. I would examine in great detail what had occurred often beating myself up and criticising the choices I have made and the actions I had taken. I usually seemed to believe I could have done things better than I actually had!

More than 30% of the population suffer from insomnia!

See what NHS Choices has to say here

The benefits of meditation

My sister suggested meditation, which she had found very useful for sleeplessness. So I contacted a local group, and I duly turned up for my first lesson in meditation. I must admit I was slightly nervous and did not really know what to expect, but over the next few weeks I attended a series of lessons and practice groups and found I could pick it up quite quickly.

I was also given a great many statistics regarding the effectiveness of meditation, and the added benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety, helping people with insomnia to sleep more easily, lower heart rate and blood pressure, inner peace and harmony, and eventually enlightenment (whatever that was). I was even told that communities practising regular meditation see a reduction in violence and crime.

Well I went away and I practised meditation for about 20 minutes twice a day for the next few weeks and guess what? It worked! No more insomnia! I found this simple practice really did help to make me calmer and less tense, it also helped control stress and to sleep better too. I could use it as an aid to better and deeper sleep and it stopped that nagging internal dialogue.

Over the years I have continued to practise the meditation I had learned, but since then I have added to my repertoire of techniques.  I would now (and frequently do) recommend meditation to anyone to aid restful sleep and relax more easily.

During my career as a therapist over the last 20 years I have taught a variety of different techniques to hundreds of people, all of which work. I have taught meditations, relaxation exercises, guided visualisations and self-hypnosis, although frankly they are all pretty much the same thing.  The advantage of having different techniques to choose from is simply personal choice. Some people like some methods better than others. However they all work.

My own personal choice for a newcomer would be simplicity. I would recommend a simple PMR exercise (progressive muscle relaxation) like the Body Scan. PMR’s are simple to learn and remember and I often use this method as a primary induction for hypnotherapy. If I am honest, I would have to say I consider all meditations to be a type of self-hypnosis, and as a hypnotherapist I would strongly recommend hypnosis as a means to lower stress levels, reduce tension and relax more. Of course I also need to mention mindfulness, which although not really a new technique is currently gaining popularity around the world.

Some tips to help you combat sleeplessness:
  • Always give yourself ample opportunity to relax and unwind before going to bed – This means setting aside at least thirty minutes to an hour solely for this purpose before retiring for the night. This hour should be devoted solely to relaxing and so should not take place working at your desk, in front of your PC etc.
  • Do not do anything that raises your heart rate prior to sleep – Sex being the only possible exception. Do not play video or online games that are exciting and increase your heart rate. Do not watch movies that make you tense or excited. Watching a bit of restful TV can be OK, but be aware that some people may even have an adrenalin response while watching the news!
  • Stick to a routine – Always go to bed at the same time. This will help to set your biological clock. Also get up at the same time, even at the weekends. It may be tempting to have an extra lie in but this will adversely affect your sleep patterns.
  • Eliminate nicotine, caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants – Yes, nicotine is a stimulant, despite what many people think about the relaxing effects of smoking. Alcohol is not only a stimulant but can be a depressant too, not only adversely affecting sleep patterns but mood state as well.       If you want to stop smoking I can help so give me a call.
  • Exercise regularly, but NOT just before sleep time.
  • Do not eat or drink just before going to bed – Perhaps just a small milky drink if you find that helps, personally I have always considered this a bit of a myth, but whatever works for you. Do remember though that drinking too much may lead to having to go to the bathroom at some point during the night, and so disturbing your sleep pattern.
  • Reduce stress – This can be done in a variety of ways and sometimes requires adjustments in lifestyle. Start out with including de-stress techniques into your everyday routines. Regularly practise some form of meditation, relaxation or self-hypnosis. There are several downloads you can use here either for free or for a small charge from the shop.
  • Consider consulting a professional – If you find you are constantly stressed and tense, find it difficult to relax, and or get to sleep easily, it may be time to seek the help of an experienced professional like myself.

And do remember I can work with anyone, anywhere, as long as they have internet access and Skype.

You should consult your GP for advice, diagnosis and treatment for medical conditions, and always inform your primary healthcare professional before starting any complementary or additional therapies or treatments.

For more information about meditation groups, classes and courses click here.