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Hypnotherapy Psychotherapy Counselling Reiki


Sleep Disturbances and Insomnia

Insomnia: an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep for an adequate length of time.

Insomnia or sleeplessness affects 30-50% of us, with 10% of the population having chronic insomnia.

Acute insomnia is short term. It may come and go, lasting for just one night or several weeks.

Chronic insomnia, however, affects sleep at least three nights a week for a month or more.

Insomnia isn't measured by the length of time it takes to fall asleep or by the number of hours you sleep for. It is a measure of satisfaction of sleep. As such, it varies between individuals; some require more sleep, some less.

Those who suffer from insomnia can have one or more of the following; difficulty falling asleep, waking in the night and having difficulty going back to sleep or waking too early in the morning.

This sleep disorder can affect people in many ways, leading to fatigue and exhaustion, irritability, blurred vision, mood swings, poor concentration and memory. With continued disruption in sleep, health can be affected by more serious issues such as hypertension and heart disease.

If someone with insomnia has an underlying medical condition contributing to their lack of sleep, this is known as primary insomnia. Secondary insomnia relates to those who have a known health issue affecting their sleep (i.e. depression, asthma, cancer, pain) or are taking medications or substances that interfere with sleep.

So what causes insomnia? Anything that interrupts your normal sleeping pattern can cause insomnia. Jet lag is a common culprit but this normally rectifies itself very quickly. Frequently I see clients who have trouble sleeping due to changing shift patterns at work or those working night shifts. Other causes can be stress or stressful situations looming, medication, environmental factors such as light, noise or temperature, porr diet or inadequate exercise and any emotional or physical discomfort. Depression, pain and chronic stress can lead to chronic insomnia.

Besides insomnia, there are several other sleep disturbances or disruptions.

Sleep apnoea affects your breathing whilst asleep. Breathing is briefly interrupted for 10-20 seconds or becomes very shallow. This may happen hundreds of times whilst asleep. As a consequence, sleep is shallow leaving you feeling tired, unfocused and lethargic during the day. Prolonged sleep apnoea can lead to health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and weight gain.

Parasomnia is a sleep disorder involving abnormal physical movements or activity. Some examples of parasomnia are somnambulism (sleep-walking), somniloquy (sleep-talking), night-terrors or nightmares, bruxism (teeth-grinding), bed-wetting and restless legs syndrome.

REM sleep disorders can also occur. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is a normal stage of sleep which occurs four to five times during a night's sleep, typically lasting for around 90-120 minutes. Each of these stages get progressively longer as the night goes by and are often followed by very light sleep or awakening. It is during REM that most of our vivid dreams occur.

Normally during REM sleep we experience something called atonia in which the muscles of our body temporarily don't move. Those with REM sleep disorder do not experience atonia and therefore physically act out their dream. Some talk or shout during their sleep, whilst other can get more physical or violent, defending themselves or fighting which can obviously be dangerous for themselves or their bed partner.

Acute insomnia or mild insomnia can often be treated by practising good sleep habits. However, for those for whom this does not work or who suffer from chronic insomnia, more help is needed. It is important to check with your GP to determine whether there are any underlying conditions.

When we sleep, our conscious mind takes a rest. Our unconscious part of the mind though remains alert and is constantly 'awake'. It is our unconscious that creates our dreams and other sleep disturbances. If there is a lot going on in our lives whether it be stressful, worrying or exciting, these issues can play on our minds and affect our sleep. Since hypnotherapy deals with the unconscious, it can be very effective in helping to resolve these issues and is also useful in the treatment of nightmares and terrors and other sleep disturbances. A series of reiki sessions can also be very beneficial in aiding relaxation and helping to eliminate stress and other negative emotions that may be affecting your sleep.