Insomnia: Who stole all the sheep?
Most of us love a good night’s sleep. However in our hectic world, surprisingly few of us get one. Many people experience some form of sleeplessness in their lives with over a third of us having episodes of insomnia. It seems there just aren’t enough sheep for us all to count.
Sleep is a vital function common to many animals. We used to think it was a system to conserve energy during those times of day when being awake was simply unproductive, a sort of mini hibernation. Interestingly it turns out that even animals that do hibernate have periods of sleep whilst they’re hibernating though they have to partially rouse themselves from hibernation to do it! So if hibernating animals have evolved to wake up in order to sleep, it must be pretty important.
Just look at what happens if you don’t get enough sleep:
- Insufficient sleep seriously affects your mental ability.
- Simple tasks require far more concentration.
- Your body suffers too as your immune system is less effective after only one sleepless night.
- On-going lack of sleep begins to alter your metabolic and hormonal balance.
- Risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and memory problems increases.
It’s even a recognised form of torture.
It’s dangerous to others as well. Studies in America report that one in five traffic accidents involve driver fatigue. The British Medical Journal published a report in 2000, which indicates that driving after a long day, (only 21 hours without sleep), can be as hazardous as driving over the legal alcohol limit. You really shouldn’t drive if you’re tired.
If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep or waking early and can’t return to sleep, you may well be suffering with insomnia. So what causes it?
According to NHS Choices, stress and anxiety are the most common causes of insomnia, although there could be underlying physical or medical conditions, so do consult your GP just in case.
Not only do stress and anxiety cause insomnia, insomnia can increase levels of stress and anxiety because everyday life is so much more difficult to cope with when you’re tired. It’s a vicious cycle indeed.
Here are some things you could do to help if you suffer with insomnia:
- Reduce your caffeine intake during the day and avoid it completely in the evening. And it’s not just coffee to watch out for. Remember that tea, colas and even hot chocolate contain caffeine too.
- Get yourself into a gentle bedtime routine. Have a relaxing bath; maybe chat about your day with someone or write a journal. Make a list of tomorrow’s tasks. You’re much less likely to worry about them overnight.
- Light from computer screens can confuse your sleep rhythms. So switch off those laptops, mobiles and tablets when you begin your bedtime routine.
- If you ‘try’ to make yourself sleep, you can end up keeping yourself awake because it becomes a task. Let sleep happen when it’s ready and simply enjoy the rest in the meantime.
- There are plenty of good, (and slightly weird!), suggestions on the Internet, so Google a few insomnia cures and see which ones take your fancy.
- There are plenty of meditation or relaxation tracks around too. Find one that suits you and use it.
If these don’t help, it may be that you need to address the causes of your stress or anxiety. Find a cognitive hypnotherapist specialising in stress and anxiety to help resolve your underlying issues. Sooner than you might think, you could be having that peaceful night’s sleep once more.
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