What would be your response to the question “What do you wish for most?” Let me guess – more and better sex, increased wages, a better job, lower bills, good health, etc. You know what many people’s answer would be? Seven hours each night of continuous sleep.
A survey commissioned by the sleep organisation Sleepio was carried out in 2011. It was based on interviews with 11,129 adults and reported back that 51.3% had trouble sleeping, with women suffering the most at 75% in contrast to men at 25%. The report also detailed the negative impact insomnia had on relationships, work and general health.
Let’s take a known case study: Lisa is 28 years old and knows all about the struggles insomnia can provoke. For the last four years she’s had to make do with (on average) four hours a night. She goes to bed around 12.30am and wakes up around 4.30am, after which it’s an un-winnable struggle to return to the land of nod. She tosses and turns but nothing happens. Sheep counting? Tried it. Warm milk? Been there, done it. Herbal pills? Effect worn off. Eventually she was starting to have problems just getting to sleep which was the worst of all worlds. It was so bad she was starting to crave those 4 hours a night, as if that amount had been fully satisfying. It didn’t make it any easier for her knowing that many others in the UK suffer from the same condition.
Lisa went to her GP to talk about her early waking form of insomnia and they talked things over for about 10 minutes. Sleeping pills were mentioned but they both agreed that was kind of a last resort. She wanted to avoid them if at all possible, as eventually you have to wean yourself off them and you’re back where you started. She mentioned talking to a counsellor and a few other things but he then touched upon the subject of CBT. This acronym stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and according to her GP was one of the more successful ways of resolving insomnia. He booked her onto a group introductory session that was to be held at a nearby clinic, which would be followed by eight one-to-one sessions with a therapist at her GP’s surgery.
During the group session Lisa was introduced to the basics of CBT through a PowerPoint display and a booklet. A circular diagram showed the connectivity of the essential elements. There is the initial trigger, the thoughts you are having, your feelings, behaviour and physical symptoms. These can feed into one another creating an on-going cycle such Lisa’s insomnia.
The one-to-one sessions have involved her opening up to the therapist and revealing to them what’s been on her mind. By possibly pinpointing the sources (and levels) of stress she can perhaps resolve the visible symptom, i.e. the insomnia. Once the information has been teased out strategies can be devised to alleviate the problem. This can be done through muscle relaxation, thought balancing, exercising, etc.
Following Lisa’s efforts to adopt most of the elements of these techniques, she began to experience longer and more satisfying nights of sleep.