If your sleep is disturbed, your work suffers and you can be in bad form with the ‘Three F’s’ of your life; Family, Friends & Fools. Imagine now having long term sleep disturbance or insomnia.
Sleep is one third of the health triangle, along with exercise and healthy eating.
Most people will have occasional sleep disturbances caused by temporary stress. However if your sleep is disturbed for over one month, and you experience difficulty falling or staying asleep, you may have insomnia.
Insomnia may accompany other medical and psychological conditions so firstly a good work-up by your GP is recommended.
Tablets need to be a temporary, for the shortest time possible. Sleeping pills have side effects which can include disturbed sleep, a sleep ‘hangover’ or even a drug dependency problem.
Don’t just quit, consult your GP and develop an alternative plan often called a sleep hygiene routine.
Ways to Improve Sleep
1. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
2. Get regular exercise each day, preferably in the morning. There is good evidence that regular exercise, ie stretching or aerobic, improves restful sleep.
3. Get regular exposure to outdoor or bright lights, especially in late afternoon.
4. Keep the temp in your bedroom comfortable.
5. Keep the bedroom quiet when sleeping.
6. Keep the bedroom dark enough to facilitate sleep.
7. Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
8. Use a relaxation exercise just before going to sleep. e.g.Muscle relaxation, massage, warm bath.
1. Exercise just before going to bed.
2. Engage in stimulating activity just before bed, such as playing a competitive game, watching an exciting program or movie, or having an important discussion with a loved one.
3. Have caffeine in the evening (coffee, many teas, chocolate, cola, etc) .
4. Read or watch television in bed.
5. Use alcohol to help you sleep.
6. Go to bed too hungry or too full.
7. Take daytime naps.
10. Don’t command yourself to go to sleep. This only makes your mind and body more alert.
If you lie in bed awake for more than 20-30 minutes, get up, go to a different room do a quiet activity (e.g. non-excitable reading or television), and then return to bed when you feel sleepy. Do this as many times during the night as needed
Sean is 70 years. He came to my clinic two years ago with major sleep problems. He was sleeping 3 hours per night for about 5 nights a week and for two nights he getting 2 hours sleep. He was restless, agitated, irritable and has significant concentration difficulties. Ten years ago his wife died. Over time his sleep became disturbed. Sean went to his GP seeking help and then used sleeping tablets for 6 years before contacting me. Following assessment, he had no depression or anxiety.
Sean had now two main problems; insomnia and drug dependency to his sleeping tablets. Working with his GP Sean was put on a reducing dose of sleeping medication. In addition using CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) techniques, Sean is now having 5 hours sleep a night on average.
In fact, he is getting as much sleep now as he was getting for the whole week. Finally Sean reports dreaming normally (something he hadn’t done for years while on sleeping pills, has no hangover effects. He describes feeling refreshed and has a zest for life.