All kinds of people are familiar with insomnia. Black, white, poor and rich people can all suffer from this problem. It only differs when it comes to age and sex. Statistical surveys in 1966 proved that women more often suffer from insomnia. It is also shown that older people sleep less than younger people.
Insomnia often comes as a surprise. Many people get in touch with their doctors but they're not happy with the advice they get. Dr William C. Dement says that we should take insomnia more seriously. Most doctors say it is nothing to worry about, but Dement claims that it is indeed a problem. Especially when it comes to exhaustion, depressions and blackouts. Chronic insomnia does not only afflict the person suffering from it, but his or her family, friends and the surrounding people. About fifteen percent of the population suffers from insomnia, and here are the three different kinds of it:
1. Trouble getting to sleep
Some people just can't fall asleep in time. They lie awake, staring at the ceiling, thinking about the day that's gone or perhaps what's going to happen tomorrow. These people are often mentally overworked, and need a lot of time to get their thoughts sorted out; to get peace in their minds.
2. Restless and wakeful sleep
About fifty percent of the persons suffering from insomnia have this problem. They wake up several times every night and have trouble falling asleep again. Mostly it is noises and aches that distract them. The brain is very selective when it comes to noises. Some people wake up from the slightest sound while others sleep through entire thunderstorms. At the same time, these persons may wake up when tiny raindrops are falling on their roofs, while the first ones just keep on sleeping.
The University of Oxford once made an experiment, where a number of persons were told to raise their fist when hearing their name, during the time they were asleep. Some of them actually did raise their fist, and that proves that the brain is active and perceptive even during sleep.
3. Waking up early
This often happens to older people. They wake up much earlier than they want to, perhaps at three or four in the morning. They're wide awake, though very tired, and have difficulties in falling asleep again. People with depressions often suffer from this type of insomnia.
- Sömn och sömnrubbningar - Reidun Ursin. Bokförlaget Natur och Kultur 1986, p.123
- Sova Gott - Richard Trubo. Tryckning Schmidts Boktryckeri AB, Helsingborg, 1980, p.22-25
1. Present situation in life
Almost everyone has a period in their lives, when the anxiety is so great, that it causes insomnia. Pressures at work, the loss of a relative or maybe divorce problems. When you're very eager to do something, waiting, or if you're just very excited about something, you can get difficulties in falling asleep.
It's difficult not turning your insomnia into something chronic. Often it gets attached to the very act of going to bed or perhaps brushing your teeth, and not to the crisis itself; the cause of the insomnia. Then, when the crisis is over, you still connect your going to bed ritual with insomnia, and can't get out of it.
Franklin Roosevelt once mentioned something about the insomniac having nothing to fear except the insomnia itself.
2. Medical factors
Severe pain is a common reason why you can't get any sleep. Even the pain you can endure during the day, when you're occupied by work or pleasures, often dominates during the night, and you can't get any sleep. And it's not hard to imagine that it's difficult to sleep when you're suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, lumbago or migraine.
Asthma-patients who have respiration problems or persons with gastric ulcers also find it difficult to get enough sleep. Then there are certain diseases connected to sleep, such as narcolepsy and sleep apnoea.
Apnoea means respitorial arrest. It's distinguished by the fact, that the respiration stops several times during sleeping, followed by the person waking up, gasping for air. The stops are between ten and 180 seconds and can recur as often as 400 to 500 times a night. Usually, the person is not aware of the problem, and keeps on wondering why he is so drowsy during the day.
Narcolepsy is a neuralgic disease. People suffering from it can get uncontrollable sleep attacks and often attacks of muscle weakness, which makes the person instantly drop to the floor. It can happen when you least expect it; when you are working, driving, dancing or making love...
According to my sources this disease can't be completely cured.
3. Mental problems
Some sleepless people have serious mental problems, depression being the most common one. Depressed people feel worthless, feel perhaps shame or guilt, and probably think a whole lot about things like death or suicide. This makes it very difficult for them falling asleep. Sometimes the depression shows itself physically, as stomach ache.
Unfortunately, these people often deny having mental problems, and that makes it very hard for the physicians to help them.
- Sova Gott - Richard Trubo. Tryckning Schmidts Boktryckeri AB, Helsingborg, 1980, p.108, 117, 29-31
Older people sleep less than younger people. Infants sleep up to seventeen hours, adults seven to eight, and when one gets over sixty years old, it reduces to only five to six and a half hours per night. Usually older people wake up five or six times a night, and that deprives them of the deepest part of their sleep, the one that makes them feel completely rested. No wonder if they feel they're not as rested as they used to be.
It is shown that men more often than women are suffering from this kind of insomnia.
5. Influence of sleeping medicine
Sleeping medicine often has the opposite effect. It causes insomnia instead of preventing it. This is, because once you've developed a tolerance towards the medicine, it makes your problems worse instead of better, and when you stop taking your medicine you often get withdrawal symptoms which causes additional nights with sleeping problems.
6. Other common causes
In this category we have, for example, people working shifts who change their sleeping habits so often that they don't have enough time to get used to their present sleeping pattern before they have to change it again. Then we have businessmen who spend most of their time travelling through different time-zones that disturb their sleeping habits.
Other common causes can be that you're spending the night in an unfamiliar bed, living close to the airport, having a neighbour with a barking dog...etc....
What can one do to get a better sleep?
When it gets severe and the patient can't cope at all, there is need of professional help, but sometimes one has power to get control and cure one's sleeping problems.
People with difficulties falling asleep need to think about the way they try to fall asleep.
- When you go to bed, what expectations do you have of your sleep?
- Are you worried you're not going to fall asleep?
- Do you think about how hopeless it feels, how frustrating it is and how you need to get a good night's sleep?
If that sounds like you, you have to change the way you think about the problem. The reason you can't fall asleep is probably that you are too activated. What you do the two hours before you go to bed affects your sleep. When you have difficulties falling asleep you probably don't spend those two hours deactivating yourself. Appropriate things to do when you deactivate, is to watch television, read a book or eat a fruit. Food is another thing that deactivates you.
When you go to bed it's important that you feel relaxed in all your muscles, because tension in your muscles increases your activation. If you find it hard to deactivate, meditation can be the solution.
You must keep in mind that one night without enough sleep is nothing to worry about. Don't think about not being able to fall asleep. It's wise to make a habit of connecting your bed only to your sleep. That means you are not allowed to do anything in your bed but sleep (there are some exceptions, of course), and don't ever go to bed when you're not sleepy. If you don't fall asleep during the first ten to fifteen minutes in bed, get up and don't go back to bed until you feel sleepy again. It also helps if you try to get in, and get out of, bed about the same time every day. Then your body gets a regular sleeping habit.
If you wake up very early in the morning and can't fall asleep again, you need to focus your thoughts on everything but the fact that you can't fall asleep. When you think about it you just get activated and it gets even harder to fall asleep. At this point it is good to know how to relax, and how to let your imagination drift away and help you to focus on something else.
Another thing that can help, is to go to bed a bit later and never sleep during the day. That makes it easier to get deactivated in time to fall asleep.
To find the causes to our sleeping problems we must take a look at our lives, study our habits, realise our problems and be open to new options. One also has to have in mind that not everyone has got a sleeping problem when they get five to six hours sleep per night. We all have different needs. Some of us feel rested after only five hours sleep while others need at least ten hours sleep to feel that they are completely rested.
- Sova Gott - Richard Trubo. Tryckning Schmidts Boktryckeri AB, Helsingborg, 1980, p.31-34
- Sömn och sömnrubbningar - Reidun Ursin. Bokförlaget Natur och Kultur 1986, p.136-141, 149-150
Does insomnia affect our dreams?
If we do not get to sleep, does our body get affected?
Physically, there is no big change. Some of us might feel tired in certain muscles, but the average person has no problem with physical activities even when not sleeping for several nights. We get deactivated and has a hard time concentrating on something for a long time. To prevent the deactivation we need to activate ourselves with new interesting things all the time. If this is the case, one can ask the question; do we need to get any sleep at all?
Well, maybe not to make our muscles feel rested, because they can rest just as well without us being asleep. But our psyche does not deal all that well with sleep-deprivation. Persons who have not slept for a while, often get very irritated and cannot control their temper. If we do not get to sleep for a long time, let us say five nights, we can get illusions. Not hallucinations, we do not see things which do not exist, but we mix up our impressions and might think that a tree is a human being or that a telephone pole is a tree.
If we do not get to sleep at all, of course that means we do not get to dream, but the question is how we dream when insomnia disturb our sleep?
Persons that wake up several times a night, do not sleep long enough to reach the REM-stadium and that deprives them of some of their dreams. On the other hand, when one gets deprived of the REM-sleep the body produces more of that ingredient the next time one falls asleep. That way we still get our REM-sleep.
The dreams we have during other stadiums of our sleep can also be affected, but they have not shown to be as important as the REM-dreams. Everyone suffering from insomnia sleep less than the average person, and that also means they dream less than the average person, but this is not something that becomes a problem for them.
- Sömn och sömnrubbningar - Reidun Ursin. Bokförlaget Natur och Kultur 1986, p.63-69
- Motion är bra och stärker sömnen. Undvik dock motion timmarna innan du skall lägga dig.
- Undvik att äta eller dricka mycket före sänggåendet. Ett litet mål till natten kan kanske vara bra för vissa, men tänk på att stora, tunga måltider försämrar sömnen. Alkohol befrämjar inte nattsömnen, tvärtom - du kanske somnar lättare, men du vaknar också tidigare. Om inte annat så vaknar man för att gå på toaletten och kan ha svårt att somna om igen efteråt.
- Var också sparsam med uppiggande drycker på kvällen som håller dig vaken. Undvik drycker med koffein, till exempel kaffe, te, kakao och Coca-Cola.
- Se till att du har en ordentlig säng som du känner att du ligger skönt i. Luften i ditt rum skall vara frisk och sval. Vädra eventuellt sovrummet precis före sänggåendet. Undvik ljus och ljud om det är möjligt.
- Vänta med att gå och lägga dig tills att du känner dig trött. Försök slappna av innan du skall sova. Samlag före eller efter du har gått i säng kan både främja och hämma sömnen. Har du svårt att somna efteråt är det kanske en god idé att dämpa lusten till morgonen.
- Läs en tråkig bok. Släck ljuset när du märker att ögonlocken börjar falla ned, men gå upp igen om du inte har somnat efter en halvtimme. Sätt dig i en stol, läs en tidning, lyssna lite på musik och lägg dig igen efter ytterligare en halvtimme.
- Gå alltid upp vid samma tid varje morgon. Ställ väckarklockan och stig snabbt upp ur sängen, även om du har sovit dåligt. Du skall nog klara dig genom dagen, och på kvällen blir du tidigare sömnig. När det gått tillräckligt många dagar med dessa rutiner så har du förhoppningsvis ställt in din biologiska dygnsrytm.
Jag använder tekniken själv när jag skall somna. Jag kom på den när jag alltid somnade efter meditation :)
Det kan låta väldigt simpelt, men är väldigt svårt om man inte har vanan inne. Börja med att slappna av i hela kroppen till 100 %. Gå igenom alla muskler för att försäkra dig om att kroppen har möjlighet att somna.
Nu kommer det svåraste. Vägra tänk en tanke! Så fort den minsta lilla tanke kommer; slå bort den! Vissa tankar är så små att man inte ens märker att man tänker dem. Man får anstränga sig för att vara helt blank i huvudet. Efter det blir det tidlöst, man somnar troligen väldigt fort, fast det har jag själv ingen uppfattning om eftersom jag ändå inte tänker. Det hela tar max fem minuter när man har vanan inne.
Jag brukar få en slags drömsyn precis innan jag somnar. Det är som en film som spelas med alla möjliga obetydliga bilder. När dessa kommer vet jag att jag somnar väldigt snart. Det är dock viktigt att inte börja fundera kring detta, då håller man sig vaken.
Det här lämpar sig bra till sömn, en slags meditation och även som en början till astralprojektion.
En bra teknik för att somna, även under stressade omständigheter, är att bara bestämma sig för att börja drömma. Ta tre djupa andetag, blunda och börja drömma. Vissa börjar drömma med hörseln först, andra med synen, eller både och sådant är individuellt men om du, som jag, börjar drömma med synen, låtsas att du ser bilder på insidan av ögonlocken, och så småningom börjar man faktiskt se bilder som i en tecknad serie, och sedan är det bara att låta sig flyta iväg. Man kan också på samma sätt lyssna efter drömljud, som t ex musik av olika slag, men detta tycker jag är svårare. På det här sättet kan man hålla sig vaken och vid fullt medvetande om vad som sker runtomkring en för ett bra tag medan man drömmer. En häftig upplevelse om något. Om man sedan övar upp den här tekniken kan man så småningom somna i princip varsomhelst och oavsett buller.
Ni som är nikotinister som har sömnsvårigheter, man ska vara utan nikotin under en timme innan man går och lägger sig.