What is insomnia?
The NHS website clarifies insomnia as “difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning, even though you’ve had enough opportunity to sleep.”
Symptoms of insomnia include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking during the night and being unable to go back to sleep
- Feeling constantly tired, irritable or anxious.
It is thought that approximately a third of the UK will experience insomnia and its unwanted symptoms at any time. This is no real relief to those living with insomnia: comforting to know you’re not alone but no less frustrating when you lie there counting sheep at night.
There are two types of insomnia:
- Primary insomnia – Usually not connected to any other health condition or problem.
- Secondary insomnia – Usually connected to another health condition or problem such as asthma, arthritis, depression, pain or because of medication or substance abuse.
Insomnia is commonly experienced in three different ways:
- Transient insomnia – short term symptoms lasting from a few days up to a few weeks.
- Acute insomnia – difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep that can last for several weeks.
- Chronic insomnia – generally this is experienced for several months, or sometimes years. This is usually because of some other cause such as a side effect of medicine or high levels of stress.
Insomnia is more commonly experienced by adults, especially the elderly, but can occur at any age. A lack of sleep can negatively affect school or work performance as well as being a factor in weight gain, depression, high blood pressure, slowed reaction time, memory and concentration problems. Insomnia in Hertfordshire can also lower your immune system which leaves you at a higher risk of developing illnesses and chronic diseases.
Causes of insomnia
Insomnia can be caused by something that is physical or psychological. Transient insomnia can be caused by a change in sleep pattern, a recent event or occurrence. Chronic insomnia is usually a result of long term stress or external factors such as medicines or long term chronic pain. Other causes include:
- Use of psychoactive drugs
- Beta blockers – treatments for hypertension and arrhythmias
- SSRI antidepressants – treatments for depression such as floxetine and citalopram
- Glucosamine/chondroitin – used for reducing inflammation and joint pain
- Withdrawal from medications
- Pain – an injury or condition that stops you from being comfortable enough to sleep
- Menopause – hormone fluctuations can cause sleep irregularities
- IBS or other gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn
- Physical exercise
- Change in sleep pattern
- Stressful event
- Traumatic event
- Caffeine or caffeinated drinks
- Disruptions in your environment such as noise disturbance, jet lag, temperature changes, a snoring partner
- TVs or other technology in the bedroom such as DVD players, mobile phones, video games, computers or laptops
- Over active mind
Treatment and prevention
You’ve probably researched all the different ways you can promote sleep and tried your own fair share of various tips and tricks to help you get to sleep. Obviously you will need a comfortable bed and a dark, quiet environment that is the right temperature.
Avoiding stimulants such as tea or coffee and stop working or studying a few hours before bed. Going to bed too full or hungry is also not recommended.
Go to bed and rise in the morning at set times, this can be relaxed for weekends and holidays. Naps should be avoided initially, once a sleep pattern has been established you can introduce up to 20 minute naps if needed.
Exercising can also help but try not to exercise or exert yourself for 3-4 hours before going to bed. There are some great sleep promoting yoga moves that will be fine to practice before bed.
Try these tips for a few weeks to see if they improve your sleeping habits, a night or two won’t be enough as it takes a while for your mind and body to reorient to a healthier sleeping pattern. There is no golden list of do’s and don’ts, each person will need different levels of stimulation before sleep so try and see what works best for you. Keeping a sleep diary may help you identify any patterns to your insomnia and show any improvements in symptoms.
If you need more help
We can help you create an environment that will promote a restful night’s sleep, you will be provided with the tools to overcome your sleep difficulties in a relaxed environment that you can practice at home to help you in take control of your sleep patterns and getting the sleep that you want.
If you are looking for help with Insomnia in Hertfordshire, call us today on 01438 358174 for more information on how we can assist you in achieving your goals.
As is common in therapy, results may vary from individual to individual and no specific outcome can be promised or guaranteed. Your therapist will however, endeavour to accomplish the objective of your sessions to the best of her ability.
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