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Insomnia Education

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Managing Insomnia

sleeping cat: Worry? Let me sleep on it. The most common cause of insomnia is not being able to quiet the mind. This audio provides education to learn how to address the thinking that occurs for many people who experience insomnia. Even if the cause of your insomnia may be physical, learning some of the methods to quiet the mind and improve sleep can still be helpful.

In addition to this audio, the mindfulness techniques can be helpful for insomnia. Also, if worry is the main cause of your insomnia, the Worry Box audio and Excel At Life's Android app, Worry Box--Anxiety Self-Help, and learning how to put worries away before you go to bed can be helpful. Be sure to check out the relaxation audios.

Transcript: Insomnia Education

The most common cause of insomnia is not being able to quiet the mind. The reasons for this can vary and it is important to recognize what may be contributing to your sleep problems. This audio is to help you understand some of the causes for insomnia which is difficulty falling asleep either initially or if you wake in the middle of the night.

First, it is important to understand the mechanism of sleep. It is easier to sleep and you will obtain a more refreshing sleep, the more physically and mentally relaxed you are. However, too often people engage in thinking or activities at bedtime that are stimulating rather than relaxing which then interfere with sleep. Obviously, this varies for each person so it is important to understand what are your obstacles to sleeping well.

Sometimes people think something is relaxing when it is actually stimulating. For instance, many people think watching TV is relaxing. However, TV is stimulating to the brain. Even if what you are watching is quiet or boring, the brain is still being stimulated by the lights and the sound. Some people say they can fall asleep better with the TV. However, they are less likely to get good rest and are more likely to toss and turn or have disturbing dreams.

Also, some people believe that having an alcoholic beverage at bedtime can relax them and help them sleep. However, this may be similar to TV in that it helps them fall asleep but sleep is not very restful and they are more likely to wake early and not be able to return to sleep. Some medications can do the same thing, even some that are prescribed to help relax the body. Also, most people are aware not to use stimulants such as caffeine close to bedtime.

Anything that creates physical or mental tension can interfere with sleep and cause insomnia. Therefore, it is important to learn good sleep hygiene and how to truly relax the body and the brain.

One of the top reasons for insomnia or waking in the middle of the night is worry. There can be several ways this can occur. Some people tend to worry all the time which increases overall tension and prevents being able to relax and fall asleep easily. Also, if you do fall asleep while worrying your mind is still in an agitated state and so you are not likely to rest well and more likely to wake up easily in the middle of the night. For people who tend to worry all the time, it is important to find methods to manage worry. Another audio I've created called “The Worry Box” can help teach you how to put worries away. In addition, it is helpful to focus more on physically relaxing the body.

Some people don't worry all the time, but may have the style of avoiding worries by distracting themselves with activity. Frequently, when people are busy all day they don't have much time to think. However, for these people, when they wind down at night and have some quiet time, worry types of thoughts are more likely to appear. This style of avoiding thoughts throughout the day often leads to increased worries at night. If this is your style, you may need to try and address problems during the day rather than avoiding them.

Other people engage in a general review of worries when they have quiet time at night. Sometimes they do this because they think it helps them solve problems. It is true that having quiet time to think about problems can lead to solutions. However, this is not helpful at night. Thinking about problems tends to be agitating and creates tension which is not conducive to good sleep.

In general, when going to bed it is important to learn to refocus away from the worries. You can do this by focusing on methods to physically relax the body such as listening to a relaxation audio or mindfully focusing on your breathing. You can also refocus away from worries by challenging the thoughts. For instance, you can tell yourself “There is nothing so important that I need to think about it now. If it is important, I can focus on what I will do about it during the day. But right now there is nothing I can do about it. I can let it go now because there is nothing to do now.”

Many people who have insomnia worry about not getting a good night's sleep. Frequently, they create a self-fulfilling prophecy of not being able to sleep. They will think “I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight. I'll just toss and turn all night and then I will feel horrible tomorrow. I'll just be miserable tomorrow and won't be able to get anything done.” This type of thinking creates tension, both mental tension and muscular tension. Such tension is likely to interfere with sleep and certainly will prevent refreshing sleep.

If you have this type of thinking, it is important to change it. You can prevent this self-fulfilling prophecy the more you believe, “It doesn't matter how I feel tomorrow. I will cope with it. I have before and I will again. I can still do things even when I am not at my best. It is not the end of the world if I don't sleep. So instead of worrying about sleep, I will just enjoy some relaxation. If I sleep, I sleep. If I don't, I don't.”

Some people have trouble sleeping because they are annoyed that they have to waste time sleeping. Usually, these people are demanding perfectionists. Such annoyance makes it more difficult to quiet the mind and relax. In this is the case for you, it may be necessary to create a different attitude about quiet time in general. You may need to tell yourself “I will be able to accomplish more if I take care of myself. That means I need to relax and give my body the time to recuperate from sleep. Slowing down, doing nothing at times, and relaxing will help me function at my best. Right now there is nothing that I can accomplish. So I will focus on letting myself enjoy some relaxation.” By developing such an attitude and engaging in relaxation methods, you will reduce agitation and have a much more restful sleep.

What I have described in this audio is the cognitive and behavioral methods of addressing insomnia. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been found to be the most effective treatment for insomnia, even more so that sleep medications. The problem with medications is that they often lead to an unhealthy sleep cycle due to side effects the next day whereas cognitive-behavioral therapy doesn't have side effects.

In summary, the following steps will help you fall asleep faster and get a better night's rest:

One, if you have any of the thinking styles described above, change them by repeating the challenging thoughts frequently. To get the repetition, you can even listen to this audio repeatedly until you create the thinking more automatically.

Two, engage in good sleep hygiene. This can involve a number of things, but primarily, do not engage in stimulating behavior. This can be reading an exciting book, watching tv, or eating certain kinds of foods. Also, develop a sleep routine that is effective for you.

Three, use relaxation methods at bedtime that quiet the mind and the body. Try different methods to find what works best for you.

Initially, it may take a bit to get your body re-adjusted and to change some of the thinking. However, as you do so, you will be rewarded with a better quality sleep and less insomnia.

Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank

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