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How I Overcame My Long Battle with Insomnia

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 3:10
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Insomnia is a relatively common sleep disorder with around one in three US adults reporting not getting enough sleep. While knowing that you are not alone in this may be comforting, it doesn’t help you sleep better. You’re probably tried different insomnia treatment options but to no avail. The trick to beating chronic insomnia is finding the underlying causes. By looking at my sleep issues from a different angle, I was able to get to the root cause of my lifelong battle with insomnia, and finally, sleep was no longer an issue in my life.

The current view on Insomnia
Insomnia is a complex problem that is still not well understood. The current definition of insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both. People often report feeling tired and sleepy during the day as a result of chronic insomnia and most report low levels of functioning. But despite this, it seems that many don’t take sleep seriously believing it is a luxury or a sign of laziness. In our constantly busy world, life doesn’t stop after sunset and street lights, television sets, and electronic devices keep us fully awake. In other words, we don’t seem to take sleep as seriously as we should. But the reality is that sleep is an important physiological process for health and well-being. Without enough sleep, our health and functioning are seriously compromised.

Why we Sleep
It may seem like sleep is a purely passive state, but looking from a medical perspective – this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sleep is characterized by inhibited activity and an altered state of consciousness. However, during this seemingly inactive state, many anabolic processes are taking place. During sleep, bodily tissue, the nervous system, and the immune system are undergoing regeneration. When we don’t get enough sleep, many metabolic and immune processes don’t function properly. The result is the onset of illness such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, depression, and endocrine disorders.

Insomnia Treatment
Treatment for insomnia usually involves simple lifestyle changes and establishing a good sleeping hygiene. However, in severe cases of insomnia, doctors will often look for the underlying causes. In some instances, insomnia does not have an underlying cause but is considered a disorder in itself. In most cases, however, insomnia is a result of underlying medical conditions, mostly of psychological origin. Shift work, stress, hormonal changes, chronic illness and pain can all wreak havoc on your sleep. Without addressing these issues first, there is little to no chance of treating insomnia.

Insomnia and Ruminative Thinking
Studies show that as much as 40% of insomnia patients have a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety and depression. This should come as no surprise considering that most people say their insomnia is caused by ruminative thinking. Being hypervigilant during the day due to worries about money, deadlines, and relationships can wreak havoc on your mental health. And once insomniacs get to bed, they often worry about not being able to fall asleep getting trapped into a vicious cycle of hypervigilance.

Stopping the Vicious Cycle
In my own case, insomnia was a direct result of ruminative thinking caused by anxiety and depression. Knowing that the way my mind worked was putting my body into overdrive helped me understand how to beat insomnia. Although I did try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in understanding and changing my thinking patterns, it seems that my nervous system was still unable to relax. Then I came across mindfulness meditation as a way to address my sleeping issues. There is a large body of research on the benefits mindfulness for mental health. A recent study published in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine even found that meditation was a successful treatment option for insomnia.

How meditation Can Help
The reason why meditation is such a great option for insomnia is that it helps you get into a calmer state of being. There are many different approaches to meditation but most involve becoming aware of one’s thoughts and lastly taking hold of these thoughts. The deep breathing during meditation also has a profound impact on your muscles, central nervous system, and endocrine functioning. In other words, meditation helps both your mind and your body to relax and this, in turn, helps you become less vigilant and more relaxed which is important for quality sleep.

Conclusion
If you suffer from insomnia and can’t seem to get enough sleep, then you need to approach your problem more seriously. After all, your heath is at stake and so is your well-being. Consider mindfulness meditation as a viable insomnia treatment for psychogenic insomnia. Ruminative thinking is a habit just like any other and you need to learn how to get out of this habit for the sake of your health. Besides, there is nothing you can lose other than another restless night.

References:
http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0063022/

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