How Therapy Can Help Your Insomnia
Sleep and mental health are inextricably linked. Sleep deprivation is extremely common in those who have psychiatric conditions (50%-80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice experience sleep problems), and can very often worsen the issue (including anxiety, depression, and ADHD) it accompanies. There are many possible causes to insomnia, meaning treatment can often be a little tricky. As a therapist, the first thing I do when working with a patient with insomnia is to focus not on sleep, but what the patient is doing during the day. Many people with insomnia have created a set of physical, mental or geographical habits that are preventing them from getting the sleep they need. If we can identify those habits, we can start to restructure the patient’s behaviors and create new habits that are conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Questions to Ask When Exploring Causes of Insomnia:
- Are you active during the day? People have been sleeping forever, it’s a completely normal process. But that process is predicated on the human body getting a certain amount of exercise every day. If you are not active during the day at all, it’s a lot harder physiologically to go to sleep.
- Are you stressed most days? Very often, lack of sleep is connected to our stress levels during the day. If you are going to bed with your heart racing and your head full of anxieties about the day ahead, it can be almost impossible to get restful sleep.
- Are you drinking way too much coffee? This is a surprisingly common cause of sleep deprivation. Caffeine is a stimulant designed to keep you awake. If you are drinking too much coffee, or drinking coffee late in the day, it can become a huge impediment to your sleep.
- Are you drinking alcohol before bed? The worst thing for sleep is alcohol. It helps you fall asleep, but doesn’t give you restful sleep. It can also worsen feelings of anxiety and depression that may be impeding your sleep.
Rituals For Sleep
Once we have worked through these basics and identified problem areas, the next step is to create bedtime rituals. How we spend the two hours before we go to sleep very often dictates whether or not we get the sleep we need. Watching news and violent movies, talking to someone stressful, or paying bills are all examples of things we should avoid during those crucial two hours. Instead, use those two hours to design a de-stressing ritual that makes you feel at ease. As we explore what that de-stressing ritual might look like, we also explore aspects of your home and current activities that might be affecting your state of mind before bed. Some reasons for bad sleep that myself and my patients have identified have been: a bad bed, loud neighbors, the room being too cold or too hot, or a need of white noise. At times, something seemingly simple is the solution. The answer could as easy as: shut the window and put the fan on.
Trauma & PTSD
But sometimes, the answer isn’t simple at all. When we’ve worked through all of the above possible causes and treatments and the insomnia is still persisting, it’s time to explore whether the issue is being caused by something like PTSD or night terrors. If so, the solutions become much more personal and specific to the sufferer’s history. The task, then, is to try and resolve the trauma and its lasting effects through talk therapy. Uncovering the deep-set emotions that are causing you to lose sleep can be a liberating experience that leads to more than just recovery from insomnia. Letting those emotions out and exploring how you truly, deeply feel can lead to a sense of calm and relief that permeates your whole life.
The Benefits of Therapy
Therapy is an incredibly useful tool for exploring possible causes and treatments of insomnia and can be the key to getting the sleep you’ve been missing. I have seen incredible results in my patients when they commit to the process and allow themselves to be vulnerable with me about their struggles and fears. If you’re battling insomnia and are ready to move forward towards recovery, I highly recommend investing in yourself and hiring a therapist who can guide and support along the way. If you are interested in booking a free 10 minute chat with me to see if we might be a good fit, click here!
I wish you all the best on your journey towards mental wellness, good rest and overall health!
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I have been a licensed psychotherapist for more than 25 years and have worked with a variety of patients over the years. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, or are suffering from PTSD, ADHD, or sleep disorders, I am here to help.