Insomnia is the inability to sleep as much as you feel is appropriate
for your needs, or to achieve the quality of sleep that you require. This could take the form of difficulty falling asleep, or problems staying asleep throughout the night, leaving you frustrated at night and feeling tired and distracted during the day.
Stress and anxiety can cause periods of insomnia, as can illness or physical injury. One of the difficulties with insomnia is that we can talk ourselves into making one or two nights of bad sleep into a much bigger issue than it needs to be. This can become a conditioned response where we have a night or two of poor sleep, we worry about it, we persuade ourselves that we’re in for a few more bad nights and, sure enough, this is exactly what follows.
This cycle can be broken by taking control of your sleep routine. If you have periods of broken sleep, experiment with a variety of ways to deal with it. Ideally you’re looking to build up a portfolio of simple responses to not being able to sleep.
If you wake up, note down anything that’s on your mind. Keep track of the times you are awake so that you can make an honest judgment in the morning as to whether you got any sleep at all. It can be difficult to assess your sleep routines completely accurately but an approximate record of times you are awake will help.
There are Apps that can track sleep but only use these Apps if you are able to do so without them causing added distraction to your sleep routine. Be advised that Apps that require keeping the phone under your pillow or on the bed may cause distraction if you forget to turn off all your notifications for the night. Activity trackers that utilise a wristband may be more appropriate. Remember too that if you’re going to gather data, use it to make some targeted lifestyle changes that will lead to improved sleep.
If you do wake up, practice deep breathing techniques, read if it helps or even get up and change your environment and return to bed when you feel drowsy.
In time you’ll develop a selection of strategies that you can rely on when you need them and gradually you’ll become accustomed to dealing with broken sleep by putting your strategies into action and knowing they will work. Instead of thinking, ‘Oh no, I’ve woken up. My mind is whirring, I’ll be awake for hours’, you’ll be thinking, ‘I’ve woken up, I know what will work in this situation. I’ll be back asleep before long’.
Above all, avoid becoming so preoccupied with your sleep routine that worrying about it stops you from sleeping. Insomnia strikes many people at some stage but it passes. Stay calm and know that if you are able to pinpoint areas to take specific action you’ll return to sleeping well before very long.