Insomnia and sleep problems

insomnia is a big problem in OxfordInsomnia and sleep issues

Insomnia is most frequently defined by an individual’s report of sleeping difficulties.

Classification of sleep problems

Insomnia can be classified as transient, acute, or chronic.

  1. “Transient insomnia” lasts for less than a week. It can be caused by another disorder, by changes in the sleep environment, by the timing of sleep, severe depression, or by stress. Its consequences – sleepiness and impaired psychomotor performance – are similar to those of sleep deprivation.
  2. “Acute insomnia” is the inability to consistently sleep well for a period of less than a month.
  3. “Chronic insomnia” lasts for longer than a month. It can be caused by another disorder, or it can be a primary disorder. Its effects can vary according to its causes. They might include muscular fatigue, hallucinations, and/or mental fatigue; but people with chronic insomnia often show increased alertness. Some people that live with this disorder see things as if they are happening in slow motion, wherein moving objects seem to blend together. Can cause double vision.

Causes and co-morbidities of insomnia

Symptoms of insomnia can be caused by or can be co-morbid with Taking psychoactive drugs or stimulants, including certain medications, herbs, caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines, methylphenidate, MDMA and modafinil. The use of fluoroquinolone antibiotic drugs, are associated with more severe and chronic types of insomnia.

Conditions such as Restless Legs Syndrome, cause sleep onset insomnia due to the discomforting sensations felt and the need to move the legs or other body parts to relieve these sensations. Also, Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) occurs during sleep and can cause arousals which the sleeper is unaware of.

Pain from an injury or condition that causes pain can preclude an individual from finding a comfortable position in which to fall asleep and can in addition cause awakening. Also, Hormone shifts such as those that precede menstruation and those during menopause.

Life events such as fear, stress, anxiety, emotional or mental tension, work problems, financial stress, birth of a child and bereavement. Mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder can all cause sleep disturbance.

More causes and co-morbidities of insomnia

Disturbances of the circadian rhythm, such as shift work and jet lag, can cause an inability to sleep at some times of the day and excessive sleepiness at other times of the day. Chronic circadian rhythm disorders are characterized by similar symptoms. Certain neurological disorders, brain lesions, or a history of traumatic brain injury can have an effect. So too can medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis.

Abuse of over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids can produce rebound insomnia and poor sleep hygiene, e.g., noise is often a problem in cities.

Parasomnias which include such disruptive sleep events as nightmares, sleepwalking, night terrors, violent behaviour while sleeping, and REM behaviour disorder, in which the physical body moves in response to events within dreams. These can be linked to mental disorders.

A rare genetic condition can cause a prion-based, permanent and eventually fatal form of insomnia called fatal familial insomnia.

And finally, physical exercise. Exercise-induced insomnia is common in athletes, causes prolonged sleep onset latency.

What can help

Hypnotherapy can help reduce the anxiety or low moods which contribute to insomnia, it can also act as a refocus for pain and poor sleep hygiene, and can help regulate erratic sleep patterns by introducing REM sleep earlier on in the cycle. Insomnia caused by drugs, restless legs, hormones or mental disturbances such as Bipolar are not generally treated using hypnotherapy. Check with your GP if you’re unsure if they say it’s anxiety related then Hypnotherapy certainly can help alongside getting your sleep hygiene right.

Things you can do for yourself

  1. Try not have a TV in the bedroom
  2. Wind down with a warm bath about an hour before bed and then read something light
  3. Listen to relaxing music
  4. Don’t use alcohol. If you are drinking try and cut back gradually to no intake
  5. Cut back on caffeine. Move the last caffeine drink back through the day and see if it makes a different
  6. Drink a cup of warm milk
  7. Make sure your bedroom is cool, overheating is often a cause of poor sleep
  8. Have clean bedclothes

At last, the NHS is recognising that Hypnotherapy helps with sleep disorders – Read more here


Hypnotherapy helps aid sleep

The CD I use to help promote sleep starts by progressive relaxation. It’s followed by a non-emotional visualisation of a garden, by the time you’re in the garden, with the suggestion of sleep, most people find it enough of a distraction to drift off.

Whilst asleep the drip feed effect of positive ideas and words helps change the way the brain is responding to day to day situations, and by getting some sleep, people feel able to get things back in control.

Solution-focused therapy helps sleep

By focusing on what we do want instead of what we don’t we teach our brains to look out for the preferred future and start untangling the habit that led us to the not sleeping in the first place.

CBT helps sleep

Understanding how we created a habit of poor sleep can help us change the way we think about and feel about it. The dread of going to bed, therefore you expect a night of lying awake worrying. This becomes a way of understanding what you’re doing, why and how it’s harming your sleep. Consequently, when using SFT you can find ways of changing it.

Mindfulness helps sleep

Meditation helps us calm down and refocus. Mindfulness can help break the worrying which often accompanies poor sleep habits. Being present and concentrating on your breathing, refocuses the mind away from the problem to something else, allowing you to relax and eventually fall asleep.

Also see: How Hypnotherapy helped a GCSE student sleep

About sleep


Penny Ling is a widely experienced hypnotherapist who has worked with everyone from top executives to stroke victims since 2007. She has been editor of Hypnotherapy Today Magazine and is a supervisor and mentor for members of the AfSFH and NCH.

Read Penny’s inspiring story How I beat all my phobias, or find out more how hypnotherapy could help your problem by downloading How Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help with life. Feel free to send Penny a message here.


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