Insomnia: Problems with Sleeping

If you're reading this at 3am then you may be having trouble sleeping. It's miserable not being able to sleep well, and once you start adding anxiety about not sleeping on top of whatever it is that's keeping you awake it can feel impossible to relax and get enough rest. Sleep problems are common, but not commonly treated in a way that people find helpful. Sleeping tablets are usually given by doctors who don't know what else to do, but there can be other ways of dealing with sleep issues.

Insomnia may result from having a stressful period or event in your life, and it's normal not to sleep well before exams, interviews, or after a bereavement or moving house. Sleep difficulties can resolve themselves once the source of anxiety or conflict have abated, but if you find that you have ongoing sleep problems then there are some aspects that therapy can help with. Two approaches are CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and more transitional psychotherapy. Each works differently with regard to sleep.

CBT takes a structured approach and looks in some detail at your sleep patterns, sleep behaviours, the environment you go to bed in, and has some tools and exercises including relaxation techniques that can be helpful.

Psychotherapy can work with underlying sources of anxiety and conflict, and also with your dreams (if you have them) to try and understand more about who you are and what you might need. In order to sleep well, you need to feel relaxed and free from too much anxiety. You may not feel consciously anxious, but there may be underlying issues that, with some help, can be understood and managed.

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