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Insomnia

soulworks therapies insomnia

Most of us have at some time experienced difficulty getting to sleep or sleeping well enough to feel fully refreshed the following morning. But when this problem persists, action is required.

Everyone is different in terms of the amount of sleep they need, which may vary according to age, lifestyle, diet and environment. Newborn babies can sleep for 16 hours a day, while school children need about 10 hours' sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours, although this often reduces with age. About a quarter of all people in the UK suffer insomnia at some time, and this is often greater among women.

The effects of insomnia

The effects of insomnia can vary greatly, both in the severity of symptoms and in the length of time the problem persists, which can range from one to four weeks or much longer. These can include:

  • not being able to get to sleep at all
  • lying awake for a long time before sleep
  • waking in the night
  • waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep
  • waking from sleep because of pain or noise
  • not being able to function properly the following day
  • having difficulty concentrating during the day
  • feeling tired rather than refreshed after sleep
  • being irritable
  • health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
  • increase in weight

In extreme cases, insomnia can have a dramatic effect on your life and your ability to function properly. You may not be able to work properly; you might even not be allowed to drive. If you experience problems owing to insomnia, you should consult your doctor.

Self-treatment

Your doctor will discuss all the issues with you, and ask about your particular problems and your health, diet and lifestyle. You may be asked to keep a sleep diary, to help understand the pattern of your insomnia. There are a number of suggestions that may be made to introduce a good sleep regime. These include:

  • taking regular exercise
  • having fixed times to go to bed and to get up
  • avoiding trying to sleep after a bad night
  • relaxing before going to bed
  • keeping a comfortable sleeping environment (neither too hot or cold)
  • avoiding naps during the day
  • avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol with six hours of bedtime
  • avoiding exercise within four hours of bedtime
  • avoiding eating heavy meals late at night
  • avoiding checking the time in the night
  • avoid using the bedroom for work or play
  • developing a bedtime routine, perhaps a bath and a warm, milky drink to cause drowsiness and create a proper sleeping habit
  • developing good relaxation techniques
  • making simple lifestyle changes

Professional treatment

If insomnia persists, your doctor may prescribe a short course of sleeping tablets (not recommended for long-term use), or other medication. Some people like to take herbal remedies, but you should always ask your doctor first. Cognitive and behavioural treatments may also be recommended. These may take a variety of forms:

  • Stimulus control therapy, which helps establish proper sleep patterns by associating the bedroom with sleep
  • Sleep restriction therapy, which initially reduces, then gradually increases the time asleep
  • Relaxation training, which helps to reduce the tensions and thoughts that prevent sleep
  • Paradoxical intention, a process used if you have trouble getting to sleep in the first place
  • Biofeedback, whereby body responses are measured and acted upon to help sleep
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), to examine and change beliefs about insomnia
  • Hypnotherapy may be used to identify and treat the factors that contribute to insomnia. If there are no underlying medical conditions, this can often be achieved in a single session. Once the underlying cause has been identified the behaviour can be treated.

Causes of insomnia

There may be many reasons why someone suffers from insomnia. These can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Stressful event: insomnia starts in response to a stressful event and continues even when the stress has been resolved
  • Situational: for example, worrying about work, money or health
  • Environmental, such as noise
  • Bereavement or illness of a loved one
  • Disruptive sleeping environment
  • An underlying physical condition, such as: Heart disease (eg. angina or heart failure), Respiratory disease (eg. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma), Neurological disease (eg. Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease), Hormone problems (eg. an overactive thyroid), Joint or muscle problems (eg. fibromylagia or arthritis), Gastrointestinal disease (eg. gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or IBS), Problems with the genital or urinary organs (eg. incontinence or an enlarged prostate), Sleep disorders (eg. restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy or sleep apnoea), Chronic (long-term) pain.
  • Drug of substance misuse (i.e. alcohol, recreational drugs, caffeine or nicotine)
  • Mental health or psychiatric problem, affecting sleeping patterns, including: Mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety, panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, Psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, Medication: insomnia can be caused by the side effects of prescribed or over-the-counter medicines, such as;, Antidepressants, Epilepsy medicine, Medication for high blood pressure (eg. beta-blockers), Hormone treatment, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Stimulant drugs (eg.methylphenidate to treat ADHD), Some asthma medicines (eg. salbutamol, salmeterol & theophylline).

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