Most people experience difficulties with sleep at some stage, but if you experience insomnia on a regular basis, it is not only your sleep that is affected. We need sleep to be able to function during the day, to keep our mood stable and to help us perform to the best of our ability. Often with insomnia, you might start to worry about getting to sleep, which creates what is called anticipatory anxiety. This worry can make your thoughts race in the night time and prevent sleep from coming.
Is your mind racing at night?
When lying in bed, are your worrying about sleep? When will I fall asleep? Waking up and seeing it is 3am and your mind races, worried that you only have 4 hours left to sleep. Sleep still does not come and you start to worry how you will get through your day. This may start to make you feel anxious and irritable and pushes sleep further away.
The next day, you might start to worry that the same thing will happen tonight. Quickly, a vicious cycle begins where you worry about sleep during the day, which in turn creates anticipatory anxiety, which causes your thoughts to race at bedtime and prevents sleep from coming. This cycle in itself can cause insomnia.
Often, the people I work with do not have medical conditions that cause their insomnia. More often than not, the underlying condition is stress.
Stress as an underlying cause of insomnia
It can be very difficult to get a refreshing sleep when you are experiencing stress or anxiety. Many people report that they do not feel stressed. If you are unsure, you can take a free stress test here.
Sleep is usually the first anxiety symptom that people notice.
Treatment for Insomnia
If you think stress may be the underlying cause of your insomnia, there are several things that help.
First, you need to decrease the anticipatory anxiety. This involves working with your thought process to help you to stop worrying about getting to sleep at night. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often used for this part of the process.
You need need to engage in practices that teach you how to relax your body and quiet your mind. In my Program I use mindfulness meditation for this. I also include a meditation for sleep in MP3 format.
Our thoughts and what we feel in our body are very closely linked. If you are worried about sleep, and your mind is racing, this will create a response in your body – a stress response. Once you are experiencing a stress response, your body and brain will be more alert, and it will be extremely difficult to sleep. My Program is to help to quiet your mind and replace the stress response with a relaxation response and stop anticipatory anxiety during the day.
Once you have learned how to stop worrying and worked with your thought process and taught your body to relax, sleep will come.