Insomnia is ruining my life

Q:  I sometimes lie awake in bed for up to 7 hours before finally falling asleep, and then I rarely sleep for over an hour because most everyone in my house is up and making noise which awakens me.  So sometimes I sleep in until noon, and other times I sleep in all day and awaken at about 7 p.m.  Then it seems I am wasting away my life in bed.  Needless to say, this is causing me major problems.  How can I escape this vicious cycle?

A:  It’s surprisingly easy to get trapped in a self-reinforcing negative cycle of insomnia.  But the good news is there are effective solutions to help you permanently break out of this vicious cycle.

First, understand that sleep (or the lack thereof), is only the symptom, not the true root cause of insomnia.  So the way out is to identify and then treat the true root causes.

We suggest seeing a doctor for a checkup if you haven’t had one recently.  You want to either treat or rule out a potential medical basis for your sleep problems.  There can be many, ranging from apnea to allergies.

But don’t be surprised if your doctor finds no identifiable underlying problems; most insomnia is primary, meaning it is generally caused by some nonmedical combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about the idea of sleep.

Bad sleep habits likely are at the root of at least some of your insomnia.  At the risk of stating the obvious, if you let yourself sleep in all day, is it any surprise you cannot sleep at night?

There’s also a good chance you are in fact sleeping at least lightly during some of the time you think you’re awake in bed.  This is a common occurrence among insomniacs, a phenomenon known as sleep state misperception.  So it’s likely that you are already getting more sleep than you think you are.

The reason for this is because our need for sleep is so basic and so powerful.  Eventually sleep overwhelms even the most persistent insomnia.

The best solution we know of to permanently address the nonmedical roots of primary insomnia are contained in the methods of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) specifically applied to sleep.  CBT is a drug-free way to help yourself sleep better permanently, and is the standard of care recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

You can learn CBT sleep methods many ways.  Sleep doctors, counselors, and many other mental health professionals often use CBT methods.  If you are the self-help type, you will find many CBT sleep resources, including books and online CBT-based sleep training programs.

CBT helps most people who try it, and many become normal sleepers again.  There is every reason to believe it will help you too.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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