In today's fast-paced world, with all its stresses and pressures, more and more people have difficulty sleeping.
Insomnia -- or sleeplessness -- is a troubling condition that stops a person from falling asleep or staying asleep as long as desired.
-- Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Lack of sleep can cause an unfocused mind and foggy thinking. Australian research has found that insomnia plays a role in as many as 30% of all road accidents.
In fact, getting enough sleep may be more important than if we exercise, smoke, or have high blood pressure. According to the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic, "Sleep is an important predictor of how long we will live."
-- Calories Burned Sleeping
How many calories do you burn sleeping? Well, the most important factors are the number of hours slept -- and your weight. We burn about half a calorie per hour when we sleep, so the longer we sleep, the more calories we burn in sleep.
As a rough average, a one hundred pound (91 kilogram) person will burn about 360 calories in 8 hours sleep, while a two hundred pounder will burn in the region of 680 calories in that time.
A pound of muscle burns around 50 calories per hour per day, while fat burns only 5 calories. The fact is that a leaner body will burn up to 10 times more calories per night in sleep than one which is overweight - yet another reason to ensure we go to sleep and stay asleep.
-- Causes of Insomnia
Stress, anxiety, worry, or constantly going over the past are all causes of sleeplessness, as are too much alcohol or caffeinated drinks.
Sometimes insomnia can be caused by medical conditions, or as a side effect of medication.
-- Medication Such As Zoloft depression insomnia
Drugs such as the anti-depressant Zoloft aka Sertraline, for example, can produce sleeplessness as a side effect. If you are experiencing chronic insomnia it's always wise to check with your doctor or health advisor to make sure that there are no underlying health reasons.
-- Getting A Good Night's Sleep
The first thing to consider when dealing with sleeplessness is the development of a healthy sleep habit. Implementing a regular sleep routine is essential. To do this, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day - even on weekends. Studies suggest that going to sleep at 10 pm and waking up at 6 am works best with our body's natural rhythms.
And remember, bed is for two things only! It's not for looking at TV, or engaging in deep discussion or argument. Above all, avoid looking at the news before sleep, since this can program the subconscious mind with signals of distress or discomfort that make it difficult to drift off into a deep, restorative sleep.
-- Total Darkness
The hormone melatonin regulates our sleep and wake cycles. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in total darkness - the longer you stay in the dark, the greater the amount of melatonin produced. Be sure to exclude all light from the bedroom.
In addition to banishing the TV from the bedroom get rid of those light-up digital clocks. The blue wavelength light emitted from TVs, computer screens, and mobile phones suppresses the production of melatonin, so when possible avoid using these things 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed.
Grandmother's advice about taking a warm, milky drink before sleep is more than an old wive's tale. Milk contains magnesium, which has been proven to induce a tranquil state. Magnesium citrate supplements may also be helpful - 400 mg about an hour before sleeping is recommended.
Also, many people find a herbal tea containing valerian or vervain to also be helpful in bringing on a restful state that leads to sleep.
-- Don't Panic
The fact is that around 1/3 to ½ of all people experience insomnia at some time or other. Remember that no one ever died from sleeplessness itself - it will not kill you! Keep in mind that you will be able to cope with the coming day. You will probably sleep better the next night, or the next - provided you don't allow yourself to sleep during the day or evening.
-- Stop Trying
In psychology there's a concept known as 'paradoxical intent'. This involves doing the opposite of what you want. If you can't sleep, focus on just lying there without moving a muscle, and TRY to remain awake. Do you best to think about nothing - except trying to stay awake. Do this for long enough and sleep will come naturally.
-- Breathing Or Relaxation Exercise
Relaxation techniques can help ease the mind into sleep. Focusing on your breathing, taking deep, natural breaths and repeating the word 'Calm' on the outbreath can really help in falling asleep.
Systematically focusing on relaxing each muscle, starting from the toes and working your way up can also prepare the mind and body for sleep, as can visualization. Imagining a peaceful scene, such as a tranquil beach or quiet country walk can also be helpful.
An excellent strategy for falling asleep is to work with an experienced consulting hypnotist or hypnotherapist. If there are underlying psychological reasons for the insomnia, then these can be uncovered and resolved in therapy.
Also, a good hypnotherapist or consulting hypnotist will automatically teach you self-hypnosis and give you strategies to use in moving from the trance state into the sleep state.
-- A Final Word
If sleeplessness and insomnia is troubling you, remember that there are steps you can take to put things right. Put the above points into action and you should return to your natural sleeping pattern, awakening refreshed and restored each morning.
Peter Field is a UK based therapist. His hypnotherapy Birmingham and London clinics help people from all over the UK. His self-hypnosis for insomnia download is now available.