Insomnia, the cure.
Many people suffer from insomnia and all of us do so at some point in our lives. When people complain to me of sleep disorders it is almost without exception to do with some worry or another. Although when I said this to one sufferer the other day she did point out that she could not sleep because she was too excited and happy, lucky her. So perhaps it would be better to describe sleep disorders as not being able to sleep due to an agitated state of one kind or another. There are a number of possible causes for insomnia, such as anxiety, a disrupted sleeping environment, or an underlying physical condition or mental health problem. Indeed there does seem to be some kind of epidemic at the moment. The recession has left most of us either worse off or worried about being so. And perhaps too excited about that new job!
Insomnia can be described as the difficulty sleeping or staying asleep long enough to experience a sense of complete rest throughout the following day. Much younger people can have a struggle getting to sleep. (sleep-onset insomnia). As an insomniac we may also suffer from:
- Waking midway through the night (older people get this most of all).
- Grogginess which leads to reduced functionality and anxiety, and an inability to concentrate.
- Lighter sleep where one is easily awoken by noise or when you wake up because of pain.
- Waking too early, a much rarer form.
Lots of people suffer from problems with sleeping, roughly, around 33% of people in Great Britain experience times of insomnia. Though it does appear to be women who suffer and certainly does occur more frequently with age.
Insomnia will happen for most people. Around a third of individuals will experience insomnia. This won’t typically continue and is totally standard as life experiences come and go.
Length of time we suffer from insomnia?
There is really no limit to how long people experience insomnia. There are really just three types;
- transient insomnia two or three days
- short-term insomnia less than three weeks
- chronic insomnia almost every night. This can lead to severe mental health problems. People tend to seek solace in alcohol and drugs. One can have mood swings and eventually depression.
There are many different approaches to insomnia, whether it is medicinal, taking tablets or perhaps some way of thinking or an exercise. One chap tweeted the other day that he improved his insomnia just by giving up milk before bed. Though a much later twitter said, ‘I know why I couldn’t sleep last night.’ Not a cure then. I myself suffered insomnia so badly for so many years that I really did struggle to get through most days. There are different types of insomnia; I do remember enjoying the thinking process, hours on into the small hours. Though I always thought I should be able to think like this in the day, when I am fully awake. Then of course there is the inability to let go of present day anxieties. A night of worry. Just what you need when life is putting you through its challenging paces.
The problem with most modern medical approaches and not just with insomnia is that it struggles with the effects or symptoms. The cause is more or less always overlooked. You want to sleep, you take a pill. My approach has always been a more holistic approach. We have to ask ourselves, what is the fundamental and universal element of insomnia that underlies all cases? We must take the person into consideration and people in general. The single element that prevents people from sleeping, which is an integral part of staying alive, is a lack of relaxation. Not just during the night in question, not just now or later on, but in general. As an Alexander Technique practitioner, I do many different workshops that on average have around twelve people in them and most of the time there is not a single person who has ever practiced relaxation. When asked what do you do to relax? The response is to say that they watch television or read a book, play golf or even go for a run. So not only do people not relax, they don’t know what it is. Relaxation is something that must happen on the mental and physical level at the same time. Furthermore it must happen regularly. If people cultivate relaxation it is very unlikely they will suffer the problem of insomnia.
So what can we do to relax? There are three types of relaxation that are both practical and directly applicable to insomnia. Firstly and the most simple is what is called seven/eleven breathing. It is a basic scientific fact that if you inhale more air than you exhale you will become more and more excited, eventually leading to a hyper-ventilation and quite a lot of people also suffer panic attacks. So the opposite of that is seven/eleven breathing. So here is what you do:
1.You must breath in for seven and out for a count of eleven.(the important thing is to breath out for longer)
2.Do this for several minutes.
3.Do this every day for ten minutes.
Any problems just give me a call and I will explain further but it is basically as simple as that. If you are suffering from insomnia use this breathing technique to calm down. You should fall asleep very soon if you persist.
The next technique is extremely good for calming down in order to sleep. This is based on a meditation many of you will know called the mindfulness of breathing. But remember we are not meditation we are relaxing with a view to sleeping. You are lying down and meditation is always done in an upright position. This is relaxation.
1.Close your eyes and start to become aware of your breathing.
2.Quickly scan your whole body and just relax all the parts you think of.
3.Now start to count your breaths. You can start the count as soon as you start your knew breath.
4.Do not count to more than ten (this could keep you awake as you possibly get to a high number demanding too much thinking!).
5.If your mind wanders just smile and come gently back to the breathing. After a short while the level of relaxation deepening in your mind and body you should drift off.
Remember none of these techniques involve any medicine or pills or dietary requirements. So practice them with no fear of side effects.
Finally, and especially if you have not been able to use the above techniques to sleep we come on to what is effectively the best insomnia cure ever, a course in the Alexander Technique. Using the Alexander Technique we can control mind and body to do better and more effectively whatever we want to do. And that includes sleeping. You cannot read how to do the Alexander Technique so I will just say that a course of six lessons will teach you enough, to apply my Alexander Technique insomnia cure. This technique is what cured my insomnia. So I will leave you with a funny anecdote told to me by a brilliant teacher at the school where I trained. A lady came to see John Brown saying she had heard the Alexander Technique helped with insomnia. Stoic and a man of few words John invited her for lessons. About six months later (she obviously enjoyed the technique), John asked her about her insomnia. ‘Insomnia!’ she cried, ‘I don’t suffer from insomnia.’
© Copyright Nick Chapman 2014
Updated September 2014 NC.