Chronic insomnia treatment is really the heart of this entire site, but I wanted to devote a separate section to it just because it deserves some extra attention.
How It Begins…
Just about everyone experiences a sleepless night now and then. Chronic insomnia usually begins with a few nights of not sleeping well.
Sometimes this is triggered by a physical problem, such as an injury or illness. Sometimes it’s caused by a change in sleeping schedule, as with a new baby or a new job. Other times it’s because of a change in environment, such as moving to a new house or sleeping away from home, or traveling.
Usually there is also an emotional component. Perhaps some anxiety over a crisis or major life change… or grief over a loss… or anger over a personal injustice… or a combination of many different emotions.
For some reason, the temporary sleeplessness does not resolve itself within a few days, as it usually does. Instead, it gets worse. After a while, you begin to worry about not getting enough sleep. This worrying makes it harder to fall asleep. You start sleeping later in the morning to “catch up.” This messes up your schedule and your circadian rhythms. Soon the vicious cycle takes hold.
Now you are stuck with chronic insomnia.
It goes on for weeks, months and maybe even years. The longer it continues, the harder it is to imagine it going away.
At this point, many people become dependent on sleeping medications – so much that if they stop taking them, they experience rebound insomnia, which drives them back to medications just to keep up some level of sanity and a minimum feeling of health… at least until the next time they try to wean themselves off the drugs.
Other people just resign themselves. They make adjustments. Some give up on consistent sleep altogether, and turn into Night Owls, working on projects during the night, despite their continuous exhaustion, because they figure, what else can they do? Others begin some bad habits of late-night snacking, which leads to weight gain, which leads to still more tiredness and health problems.
Chronic Insomnia Treatment and Relief
Yes, there is a way out of this mess. You CAN get relief from this frustrating condition! I do not pretend to be a sleep expert, but I did get rid of my own chronic insomnia, and I know you can too.
The longer you’ve had it, the more it may take to get relief, but if you keep at it and never give up, it will come.
Here are just a few tips we’ll explore in upcoming articles:
Chronic Insomnia Treatment Program
Step #1: Understand the importance of your thoughts, behavior, feelings and habits.
Once you identify the your habitual ways of thinking, acting and feeling, you can begin to change, but you can’t change what you’re not aware of. So self-awareness is the first step in chronic insomnia treatment.
Step #2: Understand the role of conditioning.
You might now be conditioned to being awake at night and there might be some unconscious resistance to change, even though consciously you may want it very badly. Conditioning is very important. You need to recognize any possible reward you are getting from staying awake.
Step #3: Make bedtime more pleasant.
You may also have developed conditioned avoidance responses to going to bed because it’s been so unpleasant for so long. Many insomniacs experience an immediate wave of anxiety and depression just walking into their bedroom at night. If this is the case, you might have to give yourself extra rewards and incentives to go to bed and stay in bed so you can begin to enjoy it once again. (See article on conditioned insomnia.)
Step #4: Find out what’s on your mind.
There may be unconscious or subconscious causes that obviously you know nothing about! Exploring this possibility might offer the breakthrough chronic insomnia treatment you need to sleep better.
Step #5: Take a more proactive approach
Instead of resigning yourself to being miserable, think about solutions. You might be surprised at how simply making the decision to work on your sleep problems can give you a lot of immediate relief.
Step #6: Adopt an attitude of patience
This includes detaching yourself from a desire for an immediate quick-fix. It’s most important to let go of all pressure on yourself to sleep. I’ve discussed this more in-depth in the section on sleep anxiety. Patience and persistence will help you win this battle. It might seem contradictory to tell you to become proactive on the one hand and give up the idea of immediate results on the other hand, but insomnia is a paradox, as I’ve mentioned many times – and this is the only way to beat it.
Step #7: Set the right goals.
So if sleeping better shouldn’t be your immediate goal in chronic insomnia treatment, what should be your goal? I’m glad you asked! Here are some substitute goals you can have:
- To learn more about sleep.
- To learn about how the brain works and how your thoughts and actions can either help or hinder you.
- To prove to yourself that you can change your actions and your thoughts.
- To take some specific actions to improve both your bedtime habits and thought habits.
- To take some specific actions to improve your overall health with a healthier diet and moderate exercise.
- To learn how to relax deeply and let go of all muscular tension – whether it helps you sleep or not, if feels great!
Why not start with these goals and then go from there? Continue the journey with the articles below.
Learn more about changing your thoughts and attitudes about sleep in the CBT insomnia article.
If you have an avoidance response to bedtime or your bedroom because you associate it with the unpleasantness of insomnia, you need to establish a pleasant pre-sleep routine.
Find out if subconscious causes of insomnia are wreaking havoc with your sleep time.
You may have a night-time worry habit that’s so entrenched it feels “normal” to you. Try this method to change it!