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Sleeping Issue #1: Insomnia

As you know, I’m on a bit of kick concerning sleep and the impact of not sleeping on our ability to Thrive. The National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health reports about 30-40% of adults say they have some symptoms of insomnia within a given year, and about 10-15 percent of adults say they have chronic insomnia. The September 2011 of the journal Sleep breaks that number down a bit for us so we now know the average US worker lost 11.3 days or $2,280 a year in productivity. Across the country this translates to 252.7 days a year and $63.2 billion! Is that you losing just over 11 days of production? Have you noticed how many days that is? That’s a goodly number of days!

What exactly is insomnia? The World Health Organization defines it as a problem initiating and/or maintaining sleep or reporting ‘non restorative’ sleep that happens at least three nights a week and is secondarily associated with daytime distress or impairment. In an ideal world you’re waking up feeling that you’ve slept well and are ready to start the day.

While there are many terms to describe the type of insomnia you may find yourself dealing with here are the most commonly used terms:

Primary Insomnia refers to the problem as being a stand alone issue and not a symptom of an underlying medical and/or psychiatric issue. This also usually refers to insomnia which has been present for over a month.

Psychophysiologic Insomnia refers to “a disorder of somatized tension and learned sleep-preventing associations that results in a complaint of insomnia and associated decreased functioning during wakefulness.” (International Classification of Sleep Disorders-Revised). To break this down a bit “somatized tension” refers to the arousal of the peripheral nervous system which we usually experience as muscle tension, a rapidly beating heart, sweating, etc. “Learned sleep-preventing associations” refers to those thoughts, behaviors and patterns we have trained ourselves with, much like a pet is trained to associate the opening of a can with being fed.

Some medications, primary medical and psychiatric issues will impact our ability to get and stay asleep as well. Its helpful to additionally keep in mind that the anticipation of stressful events, even those thought to be ‘fun’ such as birthdays or vacations or the stress of losing a loved one, etc can impact our sleep. Not so easy to figure out what’s going on, is it?

How to treat this? In order to Thrive we clearly need to rested, restored and ready to go. If you suspect the sleep problem is one related to an event or stressful happening it may well resolve on its own over the course of some time; longer then a month and its time to see a doctor. In getting ready to see your doctor be sure to bring along any medications you are taking, a log of the sleep you have been getting as well as the times of the day you feel the most distress as a result of not sleeping the night before.

While there are a number of medications used to treat sleep problems behavioral therapies are often a part of any recommendation. To quote The National Sleep Foundation, “This is because people with insomnia may begin to associate certain sleep-related stimuli with being awake. For example, bedtime routines or the bedroom itself may become linked with anxiety for a person who is experiencing insomnia because they dread the thought of another sleepless night.” Behavioral options include Stimulus Control Therapy, Cognitive Therapy and Sleep Restriction. SCT involves learning how to develop a sleep environment, which will encourage sleep. CBT-i focuses on training your brain to move toward positive thoughts and behaviors around sleep and SR is pretty much what it sounds like, restricting the number of hours you’re even in bed so that the time you are in bed you sleep through until its time to wake up.

We also know that relaxation exercises as well as physical exercises are helpful in promoting sleep. Yoga, stretching, meditation, and breathing exercises throughout the day can help with sleep in the evening. A physical work out, especially one done early in the day, will set your body clock up to be sleepy in the later evening.

These suggestions may sound old and nothing special but sometimes the best remedy for a problem is one which is time tested to work; these work. Practiced daily, in possible conjunction with those suggestions from your physician, they will likely help you get the sleep and restorative time you need each night to be a Thriving, Striving Individual and Practitioner. One last bit to help you manage those nights when sleep feels elusive ~ it is extremely unlikely that you will have long periods of time with poor sleep so a night without sleep will likely help you get a good night’s sleep the next and 2 nights without good sleep will surely set you up for the 3rd night being all about sweet dreams! Sleep tight!

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