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.

Case Study – Helping a call centre deal with lateness

During my training as a Solution-focused hypnotherapist back in 2007, I was working at a call centre just outside Bristol, the staff were my guinea pigs. I was just providing relaxation and stop smoking sessions, but after I qualified the HR manager passed me on, one of her employees with serious punctuality issues. Although the company worked flexi-hours, even 10 am was too early for one individual called Luke.

This was Luke’s first job after university and he was working there just to make ends meet. He wasn’t serious about it as a career but knew he had to keep the job. It turned out that Luke couldn’t go to sleep. He found himself wide awake until 3.30 am and needed to be up by 8 am but slept through his alarm and often woke up at 10 am when he should be starting work.

We worked on what would be acceptable in moving his going to bedtime back, half an hour over a week. Using the MP3 as a way to relax and reorganising his evening. Over the period of 6 sessions, he managed to get his sleep back to midnight – 8am cycle.

A Happy HR manager

The HR manager was really happy with his progress, and also mentioned that the relaxation sessions with the other members of staff had seen an increase in productivity because they were all sleeping better because of the MP3 or CD.

A few months after I was walking through the grounds of the call centre when I spotted Luke having his lunch in the grounds. He looked healthier and fitter, and told me he was not only doing great, but he was getting up early to exercise and had a girlfriend who was encouraging him to go to the gym.

Also see: How Hypnotherapy helped a GCSE student sleep

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