Insomnia causes unhappiness and worry and, when it is severe and on-going, depletes vitality and concentration. However it is not an illness – it is a behavioural pattern and one that can be changed fairly easily if you persevere with some practical steps.
Insomnia is frequently a symptom of ineffective stress management. The more stressed you become, and the more active your mind becomes in endlessly going over things, the more difficult it is to switch off and get to sleep, to remain asleep, or sleep deeply and restfully.
Insomnia can be caused by, or exacerbated by, excessive procrastination. We often procrastinate because of the endless succession of unfinished business that runs through our mind as we try to get to sleep or because we have let matters get into such a mess that we do not know where to begin to deal with them. This produces a mass of un-dealt-with issues in ‘the back of the mind’.
We may well be able to block There is sues out of our minds in the bustle of everyday life but they continue to affect us emotionally, in the background, producing higher and higher levels of emotional stress. Then, just as we begin to relax fully and drift off to sleep, we suddenly find ourselves becoming fully alert and awake – and the misery of insomnia begins once again. (Incidentally, this is also a common reason for early-waking, too.)
Even if we are not particularly stressed we may also accidentally develop the insomnia habit following one or two occasions when we have difficulty in getting to sleep. This might be caused by drinking caffeine in the evening, having too interesting an evening, pleasurably anticipating something, worrying about having to get up early the next day for a special event, and so on. If a bout or two of such quite normal insomnia results in the expectation of insomnia then we can easily develop the habit of expecting to not sleep well which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Most adults have interrupted sleep; to briefly wake up on occasion during the night is quite normal. But if we then begin worrying that we may have insomnia this creates an alert state of mind and makes it difficult to get back to sleep again. Many instances of insomnia are caused by this worrying about insomnia.
Sleep comes naturally and effortlessly when we mentally and physically switch off. So it is best approached as a passive process, rather like relaxation. You cannot force things or make yourself go to sleep any more than you can force or make yourself relax. When you re-develop this habit of passively allowing sleep to occur, or not to occur, sleep is likely to occur more easily, because you are not mentally or physically striving
As we get older we require more rest and less sleep. The amount of sleep you need depends on a range of factors including your physical health, the amount of mental or physical activity you engage in, you expectations of how much sleep you need, and so on. However it is unlikely that in your 30’s or older you will still need the eight or nine hours sleep that you may have needed as a teenager. And you can easily get that extra rest from regular relaxation sessions.
Many people find that mentally imagining or visualising pleasant things is more calming than thinking of the same topics using self talk. You may wish to spend a little time getting into this habit. In our NLP Trainings in the New Forest we examine practical ways of reducing self talk.
(For example, you might begin by getting up 15 minutes earlier every three days – while still going to bed at the same time – until eventually your mind-body “allows you” to get to sleep more quickly at night. Generally this process takes a few weeks to produce results.)
From our free NLP Newsletter January 2000.
© Reg Connolly – but you can freely pass this newsletter on to friends as long as you do so in its entirety, include this message and link: http://www.nlp-now.co.uk. Please contact us if you would like to reproduce this article in your own newsletter.
More information about NLP
NLP – what’s in it for me?
How to learn NLP
7 tips for choosing an NLP training provider
NLP Core Skills – our course in the New Forest
What people have said about our courses
By Reg Connolly, Director of Training, Pegasus NLP