I regularly consult with people who have sleep problems. Some have trouble getting to sleep while others wake up half way through the night and stay awake for hours. Many of the latter drop off to sleep as the alarm rings when it is time to get up.
If you have ever had problems getting enough sleep, you will know what it feels like. You can feel irritable, tired, have poor performance, an increase in making mistakes, poor reaction time, problems putting words together and impaired motor co-ordination.
To counteract this tiredness during the day, the most common remedy is to drink more coffee (or another stimulant), which has the function of helping the person get through their day. I have had clients who say they drink 6 Red Bulls a day and others will have 10 cups of coffee a day!
Drink too much coffee – say 4+ cups a day – and a person can over-stimulate their nerves and receive some nasty side effects like restlessness, irritability, trembling hands and it may even create severe insomnia.
To get to sleep, a person may resort to alcohol before going to bed or taking sleeping tablets. If the cause of the lack of sleep is not diagnosed, this person may consume large amounts of alcohol and/or take high concentrations of sleeping tablets to “knock themselves out”. The problem is, they often become dependent on the product to get some sleep.
If you are having problems sleeping, look for a cause. Your mind is saying you are gaining a bigger benefit from being awake than from being asleep. Thus, it is important to identify and treat this benefit.
Problems Getting to Sleep
People who have trouble getting to sleep can lie in bed for hours and feel totally awake. Some say they feel tired when they go to bed but as soon as they climb in, their brain wakes them up.
The most common reason people have trouble getting to sleep is fear.
They may fear:
* something is going to happen to them,
* someone will break in and hurt them in some way,
* they could die in their sleep. One person was taking tablets that were so potent he was told they would “put an elephant to sleep” yet they had no effect on him. His fear of dying in his sleep was so great, the chemicals in his body were able to over-ride the drug and keep him awake.
Children can have trouble getting to sleep if they fear the dark or fear someone may break into their home.
Worry is another cause as to why people are unable to get to sleep. As soon as they begin worrying about something, their brain becomes alert.
As an example, imagine you are lying in bed and a thought enters your mind as to whether you locked the back door. While there is doubt, your mind will remain active searching for an answer. Half an hour later, you may still be thinking about it. It is only when you check the back door does your mind feel at peace and you are able to go to sleep.
To get to sleep or to enjoy sleep, it is critical to have peace of mind.
Things that can help you get to sleep:
- Deal with any fears – this may involve ensuring all windows and doors are securely locked. Develop a knowing that you are safe. Trust that you are safe.
- Exercise to make your body tired – physical tiredness will help you sleep (and exercise releases good feel chemicals which also helps) much more than mental tiredness.
- Avoid consuming stimulants as they can perk you up.
- Avoid watching tv programs that hype you up. You don’t want adrenalin flowing through your system whist getting to sleep. You want to feel calm. Also, avoid the scary television shows. The last thing you want is to be fearful something is going to happen to you.
- Drink relaxing beverages like Camomile Tea, Green Tea or Peppermint Tea. Here is a good reference site for 10 relaxing teas.
- Ensure you have a comfortable bed and pillow. Have you ever stayed in a motel where the bed is hard? You can toss and turn all night. You can even wake up with a sore back. Pillows are much the same. A good pillow and bed can certainly help get a good night’s sleep.
- Ensure your bed is located in a restful place. One client moved her bed away from under the window to a position where she could see out the bedroom door and her feet were pointing to the window. This bed position gave her peace of mind – and a good night’s sleep.
- Ensure your room is dark – especially if you do shift work.
- Program yourself to get a good nights sleep. Tell yourself you are going to bed to enjoy a great nights sleep. Think “sleep” rather than “I’ll be awake”. Even have key words like “I am safe” and “I have peace of mind” which help with the sleep process.
In the next newsletter I will cover the causes of why people wake up during the night.
Stay tuned …