Emotional Intelligence and Psychology
CJ interviews Sondra Kornblatt author of “Restful Insomnia” on the causes and cures of insomnia.
A Guide to reducing Insomnia stress
Does insomnia have to be stressful?
Do you suffer when you can’t sleep? Maybe you lie in bed, battling with your mind. You might take cures that can be addictive or not work. Or drag yourself out of bed and try to be productive. You don’t feel renewed, so you’re zapped the next day.
Believe it or not, insomnia doesn’t have to be stressful. Restful Insomnia, a program developed by Sondra Kornblatt, helps you get the benefits of sleep – even when you can’t.
The key is moving into deep, renewing rest. When you learn how to transcend the difficulties and distractions of your body, mind, and emotions, your nights are more peaceful AND you’re more productive the next day.
This quick guide to Restful Insomnia starts with the basics on insomnia, then shares how you can renew when you can’t sleep. To change your nights and days.
Basics on insomnia: What is it and How long does it last?
Restful Insomnia developer and author, Sondra Kornblatt, describes three types of insomnia:
- Transient insomnia lasts only a night or two. It’s usually caused by some outside influence, such as sleeping in a hotel room, worrying about a work project, or getting overexcited about Christmas Eve.
- Short-term insomnia can last a few days to weeks, from poor sleep habits, jet lag, PMS, or worrying (see below).
- Chronic insomnia may occur many nights of a week and can last for a month, years, and sometimes starts in childhood.
Basics on insomnia: What causes it?
There are many causes of insomnia that include:
- Health or medical conditions: such as asthma, allergies, depression, arthritis, cancer, acid reflux, overactive thyroid, stroke, Parkinson, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or heartburn, or breathing disorders or muscle disorders such as sleep apnea or restless legs.
- Environmental factors: Travel, working late shift, penetrating light, sleep hygiene, interruptions caused by noise, bad sleep habits, or other discomforts (bedding or room temperature).
- Emotional factors: Anxiety, stress, emotional distress, depression, anxiety from work, death of a loved one can cause sleep problems. Mental health issues such as bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder also affect sleep.
- Stimulants/sedatives: Coffee, tea, cola and other caffeine-containing drinks are well-known stimulants. Nicotine in tobacco products is also a stimulant that can cause insomnia. Alcohol is a sedative that may help you fall asleep, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes you to awaken in the middle of the night. Some over-the-counter medicines such as pain medication combinations, decongestants, and weight-loss products contain caffeine and other stimulants.
- Medications: Prescription drugs such as antidepressants, heart and blood pressure medications, allergy medications, stimulants (such as Ritalin), and corticosteroids can cause sleep problems. So can certain combinations of drugs. Insomnia may also happen if you stop taking from certain medications too quickly.
- Hormonal shifts: Hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle and in menopause may play a role. During menopause, night sweats and hot flashes often disturb sleep. Insomnia is also common with pregnancy.
- Lifestyle issues: You eat late at night or have heavy meals. You take long naps during the day time. You have erratic sleep schedule with no consistent time to sleep or awake.
Sleep is wonderful, isn’t it? It’s as important to your health as a healthy diet and regular exercise. And you probably know that lack of it can affect you both mentally and physically (which doesn’t make it easier to sleep!).
Many things can cause sleep deprivation, such as awakening during the night, awakening too early, or not feeling well rested after a night’s sleep. Someone with insomnia will often take 30 minutes or more to fall asleep. And might get only six or fewer hours of sleep, for three or more nights a week over a month – or longer.
These are the negative side effects of lack of sleep, according to Mayo Clinic: (source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20024293)
- Diminished coordination, memory, concentration, and decision-making
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks, or remembering
- Slower reaction time which means a higher risk when you drive
- Depression and anxiety
- Gaining weight or obesity
- Less ability to cope (anger and irritability)
- Increases likelihood of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes
- Substance abuse
- Increase frequency of colds
- Tension headaches
- Ongoing worries about sleep
Benefits of deep, renewing rest
Even when you can’t sleep, you can help yourself rest. And deep rest gives you the following benefits, according to Sondra Kornblatt, and her Restful Insomnia program.
- High blood pressure
- Chronic pain
And rest increases:
- Immune system functioning
- Melatonin and DHEA hormones
Deep rest also opens a door to sleep as well. But even if sleep doesn’t come for a while, you’re having calmer, less stressful nights, and more energy for the next day.
It’s always worth it to check out if insomnia cures help.
But if cures don’t work, or if you wake in the middle of the night, all is not lost, once you know how to rest, and get the benefits of sleep.
Below is a brief summary of cures, including lifestyle changes from the Mayo Clinic.
Many nonprescription sleep medications contain antihistamines that can make you initially drowsy and groggy. However they can also cause side effects, such as daytime sleepiness, dizziness, urinary retention, dry mouth, and confusion.
Prescription sleeping pills — such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata) or ramelteon (Rozerem) – can knock you out for the night. However, these drugs can have side effects and some have been linked to early onset of Alzheimer’s (source: http://time.com/3313927/alzheimers-linked-to-sleeping-pills-and-anti-anxiety-drugs/). These medications may become addictive and cannot be used for more than a few weeks. Be careful when coming off of them, as withdrawal can have some serious effects. In short – these are powerful medications, so make wise decisions about using them.
Melatonin is an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement. It’s generally considered safe to use melatonin for a few weeks, but the long-term safety is unknown.
Valerian is another popular sleep aid because it has a mildly sedating effect, although it hasn’t been well studied. Discuss valerian with your doctor before trying it to ensure it doesn’t have any risk of liver damage or interaction with other medications. When it’s time to stop using valerian, it must be tapered down to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Several techniques work on stress and energy flow such as acupuncture, yoga, or meditation.
Mayo Clinic offers a laundry list of different lifestyle changes. Here are a few of them:
- Get 20-30 minutes of exercise during the day
- Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol and don’t use nicotine. Check labels on your medications to see if they include caffeine or other stimulants, such as pseudoephedrine.
- Stick to a sleep schedule with a consistent bedtime and wake time. Avoid or limit naps to 30 minutes or no later than 3 p.m.
- Avoid large meals and beverages before bed. Drink less for less frequent urination.
- Avoid TV, computers, video games, smartphones or other screens just before bed, as the light can interfere with your sleep cycle.
- Close your bedroom door or create white noise, such as a running fan, to help drown out other noises.
- Keep your bedroom dark and the temperature comfortable, usually cooler than during the day.
- Turn the bedroom clocks away from the bed, so you don’t worry about the time.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
This type of therapy helps you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake. It may also involve eliminating false or worrisome beliefs about sleep, such as the idea that a single restless night will make you sick.
How to move into deep rest, via Restful Insomnia
When you can’t sleep and want to rest, it’s helpful to have a variety of techniques to deal with any obstacles that arise to keep you wakeful. These basic techniques from the Restful Insomnia program are a good foundation to support deep rest, so you can get the benefits of sleep, even when you can’t.
Stop trying to sleep
Seems counter-intuitive, when all you crave is sleep. But sleep is about letting go, says Sondra Kornblatt. And when you want to sleep you have a goal – to sleep! Then you keep checking your progress about whether you’ve met that goal. Which just keeps you awake….
Instead, you can let go into rest, to both renew and open the door, to let sleep sneak in as a lovely surprise.
Create dusk and evening rituals
Create habits and darkness to create physical and intuitive reminders to rest.
Turn off overhead lights and use lamps a few hours before bed. Create a regular relaxing pre-bedtime ritual – such as a warm bath, soft music, reading, yoga, or prayer.
You can then do any or all of these rituals when you wake in the middle of the night, which reminds your body memory that it’s time to let go.
Getting up in the middle of the night for comfort items can wake you with light, and with reminders of things you want to do (like clean the messy bathroom drawer when you look for hand cream).
Instead, keep a stash of the most crucial items by your bed, to easily pull out when you need them. Things such as: chap stick, hand cream, Advil or other pain medication, water, notepad and pen, nail clippers or file, and anything that can soothe an irritation in the middle of the night.
Reduce Mind chatter
There are a lot of tools to help calm the chattering mind. One of the simplest is giving your mind something else to do, so it stops its spiral of creating new problems to analyze and solve.
Could be something as simple (and challenging) as counting backwards from a huge number by an odd amount, say from 13,778 by 33. Or mentally practice a regular yoga, qi gong, or tai chi routine. When your mind starts chattering, just come back to the practice, to reduce the power of the mind in charge.
Reduce Worry and Emotional distress
Emotions make our mind chatter seem urgent and real. One good way to manage it is through Energy Psychology tools.
The simplest one is F-O (Frontal-Occipital) holding: Place one hand across the forehead, and the other hand at the back of the head, cupping the bump or occipital ridge. Hold for at least one minute or until the body shifts. For example the body has a subtle or noticeable change, such as a big sigh, a slight loosening of muscle tension, a need to move or stretch or yawn, slower breathing, and/or a noticeable or vague sense that “something just feels better.” (Adapted from Energy Medicine, by Donna Eden.)
How to learn more about deep rest and Restful Insomnia
Deep rest makes a huge difference in alleviating insomnia stress. If you encounter bumps and obstacles on your way to rest, you can learn myriad techniques through the Restful Insomnia program.
The book, Restful Insomnia: How to Get the Benefits of Sleep Even When You Can’t (Conari Press, 2009), provides an overview of the program and tools to help rest.
The website (www.RestfulInsomnia.com) offers online courses, training, and personal coaching for rest and related concerns.
When you learn to rest, you’ll be free of insomnia stress and feel confident of peaceful nights.