Insomnia is habitual sleeplessness or the inability to sleep. According to this definition, I don’t have insomnia. I am able to sleep. In fact I love sleep, I always want to sleep…except for those anxiety dreams, but that’s another post. If I don’t have insomnia, then why am I so tired all the time?
Upon further research, I learned there are three different patterns of insomnia. One is sleep onset insomnia, the inability to fall asleep. This I knew. It’s more common in people with anxiety. Your brain just doesn’t want to shut up and thoughts keep cycling in your head. Anxiety is similar to stress in that the hormone cortisol is at higher levels. One of the functions of cortisol is to keep you awake. I don’t have sleep onset insomnia. I have trouble staying awake!
Another pattern of insomnia is early morning awakening with an inability to go back to sleep. Usually you get around 6.5 hours of sleep. This pattern is typical of depression. I’ve been having this kind of trouble lately. I wake up at 3:30am and that’s it, I’m awake. It makes me pretty useless during the day.
The third pattern of insomnia is nocturnal awakenings. I didn’t know this counted as insomnia. I have this all the time. I wake up several times during the night for no apparent reason. Thankfully, I am usually able to get back to sleep, but it still leaves me waking up tired.
How do you treat insomnia? By keeping good sleep hygiene for one thing. This includes going to bed and waking up at regular times, avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, giving yourself time to wind down before bed, exercising during the day and keeping the bedroom a comfortable, dark place for sleeping, not TV! This stuff is pretty obvious. I try to follow these rules, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. Then what do you do? Well, I climb out from between hubby and Ewok and head to the couch where I watch the Phantom of the Opera until sleep finds me. Sometimes the movie has to play several times. My psychiatrist has prescribed me sleeping pills for when my insomnia is bad. I’m not comfortable taking them though. I’m sure there are lots of different options, but I am worried about becoming dependent or really wanting to sleep and taking too many. So I was pleased to discover an alternative to sleeping pills, cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)!
According the the Globe and Mail (a Canadian newspaper) it’s the first line of treatment for insomnia in Canada, USA and Britain……really? Then why was psych so quick to give me sleeping pills? CBT-I is supposed to teach you how to manage racing thoughts and limit the amount of time you stay in bed to your actual sleep time. This means only going to bed when sleepy, not napping, having a certain rise time and getting out of bed if you can’t sleep for some reason.
It’s hard to believe that this CBT-I stuff is recommended over sleeping pills for chronic insomnia and I’ve never heard of it. With 8 years of mental health treatment under my belt, I would have thought I’d come across it.
Has anyone else heard of this? Has anyone tried it? I’d love to hear from you about CBT-I or about what methods you use to get to sleep.