Resolving sleep disruption: underpinning our resilience
When life’s stresses and strains become overwhelming it is not surprising that our sleep can too often become disrupted. Conversely, it can sometimes be the case that disrupted sleep can cause us to feel unable to manage life’s stresses and strains, thus putting a strain on our resilience levels. In everyday terminology, it can become a ‘chicken and egg’ situation – i.e. is disrupted sleep causing emotional overwhelm, or is our emotional overwhelm causing sleep disruption?
Whichever the case may be, it is widely understood that sleep is vital to the optimum functioning of our minds in daily life, our work performance and our general physical, mental and emotional health for which there is plenty of research available to back up this hypothesis.
In the counselling relationship, either individually or in a group counselling programme focusing on sleep, it is beneficial to, first of all, identify the underlying root causes of the sleep disruption.
There are a number of tools which can be used in order to assess the level of and reasons for sleep disruption. For example, individuals may find that their beliefs about sleep are contributing to the cycle of poor sleep. Our beliefs about sleep, like whether or not we believe we need eight hours uninterrupted sleep every night, can cause excessive angst when this quantity of sleep is not being reached.
The Dysfunctional Beliefs and Attitudes about Sleep (DBAS) questionnaire (http://uofthenet.org/alliant/Garrison-Sleep/9-interpreting%20factors-DBAS-16-2.pdf), which has been well researched provides a useful insight as to whether beliefs are compounding the issue.
Additionally, there may be emotional factors that are disrupting our sleep at night and these can be assessed by carrying out an emotional needs audit (http://www.hgi.org.uk/sites/default/files/hgi/Emotional-Needs-Audit-2006.pdf)
In the counselling session or programme setting, it makes sense for the counsellor to explore some of these factors in the first instance. Then, using an educational approach around the benefits and importance of the right quality of sleep as well as demystifying some of the commonly held beliefs about sleep, can be helpful.
It is at this point that the programme can move into coaching individuals towards calming the emotions, creating a conducive environment for sleep, and building a plan for getting into a more healthy sleep routine. We will then find that we can function more effectively again in our lives, work and relationships, we can build resilience and resources successfully, and feel a significant improvement in our general physical, mental and emotional health.