Having a bad time sleeping can really throw you out of whack! Not only do we need sleep as a way of recharging our batteries but sleep is our bodies way of regulating our hormones, particularly ones relating to stress. This is unfortunate because stress is often the biggest culprit in creating sleepless nights!
Sometimes, insomnia and nightmares, rather than being the main symptom, are a consequence of other symptoms or issues. Usually sleep problems are an offshoot of what I call The Big Five: stress, anxiety, depression, obsessions, and compulsions. Almost every symptom and problem that people consult me for help with is a by-product or mix of these five major complaints. While it’s easy to see how stress, anxiety, and depression might affect your sleep patterns, people are often surprised when I mention obsessions and compulsions.
Simply put, obsessions involve any type of persistent or recursive thought patterns or behaviours. Many people suffering sleep problems find that they can’t sleep because their head doesn’t seem to switch off. As someone who used to experience this type of sleep problem I’m all too familiar with the role of obsessive thinking styles in sleep-related conditions. Many times I’d lie awake at night, my head buzzing with thoughts, ideas, and worries, often taking hours to settle, while my wife would be sound asleep the moment her head touched the pillow! How jealous I was!
Compulsions can affect sleep in a slightly different way. Compulsions are usually self-soothing behaviours, aimed at providing comfort and alleviating stress. Typical compulsive behaviours that might affect sleep are:
Each of these activities can affect sleep patterns and cause a bad night sleep, or set up a negative sleep cycle. It’s often tempting to turn to these things either to help you sleep, or because you can’t sleep, but like all compulsive behaviour, while the relief is tangible it is also short-lived and sets up a negative cycle.
Often we need to trace back problems to their root so that it can be addressed and resolved in a safe and efficacious way. While compulsive behaviour can affect sleep, causing insomnia, we often need to look a little deeper at what is driving the compulsive behaviour itself. Naturally this can vary from person to person. While sleep problems may be the result of conscious stress, sleep problems can also be caused by unconscious conflicts or an unresolved trauma, as is often the case with nightmares or night terrors.
If you’re experiencing poor sleep at the minute and you’re at the point of being totally fed-up, allow me to reassure you that both psychotherapy and hypnotherapy can be effective tools for helping you get back on track.
Both internal psychological states and external pressures can cause your sympathetic nervous system to be engaged. Your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for such things as fight, flight, work, and active problem solving. We can easily get caught in a cycle in which our sympathetic nervous system stays stuck in the 'on' mode. Fortunately certain psychotherapy and hypnotherapy techniques can down-regulate the nervous system - switching it to parasympathetic mode - allowing you to get into a pattern of good sleep. For more information I invite you to check out my Sequential Psychotherapy website, which contains an informative, easy-to-understand video about how I work as well as providing you with some insight into how symptoms and problems come about.
If you feel that you'd like my help why not get in touch to arrange your FREE initial consultation and join me at The Bristol Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy Clinic or online via Skype for a friendly chat about what's happening. A lovely lady came to see me because of the negative effect her poor sleeping patterns were having. She had this to say about our time together:
I met with Seb as I was having problems with my sleeping patterns. On the whole I was quite self-conscious about it and the issue was becoming a problem in my relationship. The great thing about Seb is that he takes the 'drama' out of the situation and gives practical solutions to help. This helped me to understand why these things were happening and helped me find my way through my sleeping issue.
I cannot tell you how much this experience has benefited my life since then on all levels, and really, if you have a problem that you are battling with, I urge you to get in touch with Seb as soon as you can. A note on Seb himself - he is a really sound guy - easy to get on with. A great person to help you resolve life's little challenges that can get in the way.
P.C. - Insomnia