I cannot sleep. Am I depressed or anxious? What can help?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Dr Rosa Pastena -individual and couple therapy-
15th March, 20150 Comments
When there is not a medical problem causing sleep disruption (pain, going to the toilet often, night sweats, side effects from medication), the reason for not being able to get a good night sleep can be psychological.
When someone is feeling depressed or low in mood, disturbed sleep is very common. Waking up early in the morning and/or finding it difficult to get off to sleep are very familiar symptoms to those suffering with low mood. The emotional upset of loss, bereavement or an end of a relationship often do not allow the mind and body to relax before we sleep.
In these cases the inability to move on and emotionally detach from past experiences is the most important problem to tackle.
Also stress, anxiety and worry can lead to lack of sleep. When we talk about anxiety the problem is more related to dealing with the future and its possible uncertainties. Getting worried about a possible danger makes the body muscles more tense and the mind ruminating about “what could happen if...”.
If you are not sleeping because you are ruminating about the past or the future try to:
- Get out of bed and sit somewhere quiet where you can take a few notes about what it is worrying you.
- Write down what you are thinking about.
- Tackle each single problem by writing down everything which could possibly solve the problem.
- Choose the most realistic solution and break it down through all the steps you need to take.
- Write down the possible barriers and how to deal with them.
- After you are finished tell yourself you have done everything possible and that is it for now. You can think about any other possible solution in the morning.
- Spend at least 30 minutes winding down and then go back to bed.
- Once in bed use deep breathing to focus on present moment; making the sound of your breath louder might help to take the mind off upsetting feeling and worries.
About the author
Rosa Pastena, chartered clinical psychologist and Senior Psychotherapist (HCPC, BACP), working for both the NHS and privately. Individual and couple therapy.
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