Have you lain awake at night, unable to sleep, worrying, tossing and turning, keeping your partner awake, getting more and more churned up? If so, join the merry throng of people who have difficulties with sleep, insomnia.
Actually it’s huge today. According to the UK’s ONS, as many as 16 million UK adults are suffering from sleepless nights as a third (31%) say they have insomnia. Two thirds (67%) of UK adults suffer from disrupted sleep and nearly a quarter (23%) manage no more than five hours a night
In fact a pattern can set in. The more you find you don’t sleep at night, the more it seems to set up an expectation that you won’t sleep. So, guess what, self-fulfilling prophecy, no sleep. I meet masses of people who think they “must” have their 8 hours sleep, come what may (can be tough if you or your partner has a baby, by the way!)
The one thing medics say not to do is to worry that you “can’t sleep”, because that’s more likely to keep you awake. Yet, as worriers know, that’s easier said than done, and you finding that as you lie awake your mind immediately goes to “I can’t sleep again” and off you go, stuck in being wide awake.
Well, there are things that can be done (see below), and they don’t necessarily involve sleeping tablets, which tend to get a bit addictive, like a “prop”, and leave you feeling drowsy the next day.
Letting go of insomnia
One thing that people don’t tell you is that this idea that you “should” be asleep is a bit of a myth. We probably learned it early on in life when our parents wanted us to get off to sleep so that they could have “their” time or because they thought we “should”, that it was “good for you”. Yet people often don’t have regular sleep rhythms and can be awake in the night quite naturally.
The point is to change your relationship with the issue, by not making it an issue. There is something in all this about acceptance of what is. There is probably something else you could do while awake. A friend of mind does the Times crossword at night, not my thing (too much thinking), but it works for him. The words “let go” and “surrender” come to mind, surrendering to it, rather than having it be a drama.
Also there is something important in all this about consciously managing your state, which is what can be learned from developing the art of mindfulness. The key is to learn to manage the mind and learn to let go of unhelpful mental activity and re-focus. The yogis learned this thousands of years ago and mindfulness practitioners teach others to do it today. It is for example a very good time to meditate, when the world is silent and still. A good time to know more of your inner place of stillness. Quietening the mind is often a very helpful route to having better sleep.
Try the Sleepio programme
For insomnia sufferers, here is a very good online CBT (and mindfulness) based programme to help you let go of insomnia. It’s scientifically-based, and comes strongly recommended, such as by the UK’s NHS. Click here.