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Sweet dreams: Banish insomnia and get a good night's sleep

No matter how soft the sheets, for some a good night's sleep is impossible to come by

Russell Hemmings

Published: Updated:

No matter how soft the sheets, how snuggly the duvet or how indulgent the pillow, if you can’t sleep, your bed can feel like the most uncomfortable place to be. Spending hours staring into the darkness or closing your eyes trying to deceive yourself that you are getting some kind of rest, willing yourself to drop off whilst all the time being hyper aware of the fact you can’t sleep. It’s a familiar scenario for many of us.

Now, it’s annoying, but not too big a deal if this happens to you only very occasionally. You probably manage to struggle through the next day, with just a pair of bleary, tired eyes to show for it. Many of us experience problems with sleep at some point in our lives. But when poor quality sleep becomes the norm for you on a nightly basis, then the toll it can take on your physical and mental health can be immense.

Health implications

Insomnia is not defined by the amount of hours of sleep you get each night, because of course we’re all different and some people need more than the average six to seven hours and some people need less. However, getting just one hour less than what is right for you can compromise your cognitive abilities the following day and you’ll probably find you process things a lot more slowly. So getting a lot less than you need can have far reaching health implications. For starters it can affect your mood, leaving you feeling irritable and prone to emotional swings. When your sleep bank is overdrawn, you are also more likely to crave food high is sugar and fat, not only because you’re craving a shot of energy, but also because sleep deprivation tends to blunt your ability to make good food choices. Prolonged sleep problems also put you at greater risk of developing serious illnesses such a cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

So if you regularly find yourself so tired that you could fall asleep standing up, yet dreading the thought of going to bed because you know once your head finally hits the pillow you’ll be lying there for hours feeling stressed or wide awake and raring to go in the middle of the night, then it’s important that you get to the bottom of what’s causing it and try to get back on track.

Unlocking why your nights are such a major problem

What’s going on in your daily life usually holds the key to unlocking why your nights are such a major problem. It might be that you’re suffering from a medical condition that either causes insomnia itself or causes you debilitating physical symptoms that lead to sleep disturbance. If you can rule this out, then it’s far more likely that stress or lifestyle are to blame.

Stress can leave you feeling physically exhausted, but just when you feel you’re in need of sleep the most the tension you are carrying around with you makes your mind race and you begin to dwell on the source of anxiety. The reality is, this is often the worst time to find solutions to those problems as in this heightened state you tend to get things out of perspective and make them seem worse. Depression too can also be a contributory factor. In fact insomnia and depression are often very closely linked. Either the insomnia has triggered the low mood feeling of losing a sense of pleasure in life or it is a symptom of feeling this way.

However, if you know stress isn’t the cause of your lack of sleep, then a closer inspection of your lifestyle might yield the answer. Stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol are fairly obvious culprits, but also nicotine taken close to bedtime can have a detrimental effect on sleep patterns too. Shift patterns, sleeping later to compensate for not being able to get to sleep and naps taken too late in the afternoon can also interfere with your body clock as can too much time spent in front of a screen.

So pinning down the cause is the first step in trying to overcome a sleep disorder. Doing something about it is the next. Naturally, it goes without saying that it’s wise to seek the help of a medical professional if you are suffering from prolonged sleep disturbance. However, there are some simple things you can do that can also help you relax into that trance like state that leads to sleep. Cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy is a natural and highly effective way to help you achieve that feeling of total relaxation, whilst at the same time allowing you to explore what has caused your sleep deprivation in the first place.

A healthy sleep routine

Establishing a healthy sleep routine can also make a huge difference and it’s very easy to put into action. Firstly, try to make sure your bedroom is a calm place of sanctuary and is only used for sleeping. Don’t be tempted to go to bed early and in the hour before bed avoid caffeine, alcohol and carb heavy foods. Switch off all screens, including e-books, as the light emitted from these can over stimulate the brain. Instead listen to some soothing music, lower the lighting and let your mind drift. Have a warm bath if this help and then get into bed. If you don’t fall asleep within twenty minutes, don’t lie there getting stressed as this causes the brain to make associations between bed and wakefulness. Instead get up, move out of your bedroom and repeat the relaxation process again. Make sure you set your alarm for the same time each day as this helps to reset your body clock into a normal pattern.

Good sleep and good health go hand in hand, so don’t battle on a bedtime. Dealing with the underlying causes and creating effective nighttime routines will mean you’ll be able to come by those sweet dreams far more easily.

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Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based clinical and cognitive behavioral hypnotherapist. He can be contacted online at www.russellhemmings.com or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/bridgehypnotherapyclinic.