When we know the reasons for our poor sleep we can start doing something about it. The most common type of insomnia is psychophysiological (= functional) insomnia. In this case, the reason for poor sleep is not a disease but is due to worries and fears related to sleep. Acute insomnia on the other hand typically has underlying reasons such as stress, life changes, work issues or external disturbances. When the reasons for acute insomnia (such as stress) go away and worries and fears related to sleep remain, we call the remaining state functional insomnia. Medicine can be effective in treating this in the short term for acute insomnia but rarely so in prolonged insomnia. When insomnia has lasted over three months a more holistic treatment is recommended by most sleep experts.
The good news is that there are alternatives and different sleep treatments. What suits one might not suit another. It’s clear that we can do a lot to improve our sleep on our own. This does not mean more and more restrictions and rules but better ways to relax and balance our hectic lives. This is the section where we aim to give information and tools for creating your very own toolbox for better sleep. It’s all about testing and trying out. Remember: sleep problems are not created at night. Consequently, sleep healing does not happen at night.
Motivation to sleep better
The fact that you are reading this page means you are looking for information, answers, thoughts and ideas on how to improve your sleep. It can also, hopefully, mean that you are ready to work for your sleep and take responsibility for your sleep. This is the first step to become a better sleeper! We can ‘outsource’ our sleep skills only so far and when the drugs stop working we know that we should stop treating the symptoms and start identifying the causes.
Are you ready to make changes? Are you ready to change? Do you have enough motivation, will power and energy to deal with the problems on your own? It’s always easier with another person(s) and peer group also helps to motivate and keep the goals. Whether you want to see a doctor, psychiatric, sleep expert/therapist, go to a sleep clinic, find support virtually or share your problems with a good friend is up to you. Moreover, it’s too easy to postpone demanding projects like this. But then the question we owe to ourselves is should we start living better now or regret our energy-empty, sleep-deprived lives later?
Before you rush into the tool kit and tips, please take a moment to consider whether you are ready to work on your sleep. Change requires choices. Choices require ‘letting go’ and ‘introducing new habits’. It’s natural for human beings to resist change as long as possibly possible. We normally start the change when there’s absolutely no other choice left. When drugs stop working and we wake up in a sleeping pill hangover (after a totally sleepless night) we normally start to realize that nothing other than a personal change of 180° is enough. For some people this change can mean changing unhealthy thinking patterns, for some others it can mean livinga more healthy life (less alcohol, more exercise, better diet) and for some people it can mean a bit of everything and for example more me-time to relax, plan and think things through carefully during daytime (instead of night time!). You know you best and therefore are the person most fit to take responsibility for sleeping better.
The challenge of change
Many sleep experts tell us that most poor sleepers are very reluctant to change. People don’t want to give up any of their (bad) habits. It seems that there’s an urgent need to sleep with our gadgets (do our bosses or even friends really need us after 10 pm?), a need to enjoy life and party and drink (too much) alcohol, a need to do anything else but 15-30 minutes just to ourselves on daily basis (walk, relaxation, meditation, reading) etc. There are so many needs that systematically top basic requirements for good sleep and then we wonder why we sleep poorly. Change is about choices and prioritisation.
It’s also useful to think about goals. What would be a good-night-sleep for you is most probably a different concept than to your neighbour. When we know what we are aiming for, we better know how to build a path there and can celebrate milestones! Write down your idea of good sleep, goals forward and remember to stay realistic. You can also think about goals for short versus long term, hard versus soft values. It is important to manage expectations because some nights we sleep better and some nights worse even though we have done everything ‘by the book’. Furthermore, some tools help and some don’t – we need to test them and learn. And some nights there simply aren’t any clear reasons for poor sleep. Even good sleepers sleep sometimes poorly too. Nobody sleeps like a log every single night!
Also, if you are a poor sleeper you have probably already read a great deal of articles and seen a good number of programs dealing with this topic. This doesn’t mean anything yet. Knowing is not the same as doing! To make changes, you need to DO stuff in a new way. And how can we know what works on us unless we first try it out!
Words of guidance
Before you start browsing and perhaps even implementing different treatments and tips we would like to say a few words of encouragement. Please don’t be put off by what might seem like a colossal task – even small changes can make a huge difference. Furthermore, learning more about ourselves is always rewarding. It’s absolutely a joy to discover what works well with our body, mind and soul! Eventually, you will find what works specifically for you, your confidence will grow and your sleep will improve. And even small changes, lets say 20% of more sleep on weekly basis, might improve our quality of life dramatically! And remember, this snowball effect works both ways. As bad stuff escalates, good escalates too. Better nights lead to even better nights!
If you came to this page straight away (and skipped pages about sleep and insomnia), it might make sense to return to the other pages and browse them through (even quickly). It might surprise you how much ‘false’ information or myths there are about sleep. Correcting unhealthy prejudices about sleep will help us better understand and accept realities related to sleep.
Last but not least: Don’t give up! Relapses are natural. It’s key to keep on going. Changing involves different stages. Resisting is one of them.
Chinese saying: “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
Lets get going! And please share your experiences with other sensitive sleepers (forum, my story, blog, comments, feedback).