It's time to talk about insomnia...
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
You would figure that I would have talked about insomnia much earlier than now. Right? I mean how many of you have had insomnia. Quite a few of you, most likely, at some point in your lives have had at least one bout.
Why did I wait? I don't know if I consciously decided to hold off on writing about it. However, I do remember thinking that with all of the other issues relating to sleep that not many people know about... why not speak about those things first.
However, I think the time is right to talk about insomnia, especially because I do know that some people are having trouble sleeping, given the times in which we are currently living. So, while some people are sleeping relatively well because they do not have to go to work or wake up early for it, others are having more sleep troubles, most often relating to stress or anxiety.
Just like we've heard, anecdotally, that some people are experiencing more nightmares, we've also heard that others are having more difficulty falling asleep, sleep onset insomnia, or staying asleep, sleep maintenance insomnia.
Here's what I want to point out: insomnia, in many cases, is related to mental health. It is related to stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also be related to excitement... not everything need be negative to trigger a sleepless night.
One thing to note, then, is that if insomnia is related to stress or excitement, then it can also be resolved by learning how to work with our emotions or thoughts in order to respond more effectively. If this is the case, then it follows that insomnia can be treated or resolved through more psychological or cognitive methods as opposed to resorting to sleeping pills. However, sleeping pills are often what many people try first when faced with insomnia.
The trouble with sleeping pills
Sleeping pills are sedative-hypnotic pharmaceutical drugs. Here's what they typically do: they work to enhance the effect of GABA on your central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord. GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, and it is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are kind of like a phone system, facilitating the way that your body communicates at the level of its nerve cells. In the case of GABA, it works to limit activity in your central nervous system. This means that it has a calming effect. Sleeping pills work to enhance the effect of GABA in your body.
However, the kind of sleep that you get from sleeping pills is not normal sleep, and it doesn't deliver on providing the restorative kind of sleep that you would get naturally. In fact, sleeping pills are no longer being recommended as the first line of defence for insomnia. Not only are sleeping pills addictive, inducing withdrawal systems when stopped, they can
also lead to insomnia rebound. If you do use sleeping pills, it is recommended that you do so for only a short period of time, on a low dosage, under the supervision of your physician.
Nowadays, the recommendation is to focus on changing the ways in which people view sleep as well as their sleep habits to produce long-term gains in sleep quantity and quality. Cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) has been found to be effective as a treatment, producing long-lasting pro-sleep behaviours. In addition, other techniques that promote relaxation or that prime sleep onset (the time it takes to fall asleep) also exist. Cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia helps a person to develop a set of practices (e.g., sleep hygiene, sleep restriction, stimulus-response, etc.) to promote better sleep. While the treatment is effective at helping people develop better habits and is longer lasting, relapse prevention is also really important.
It is in this sense that finding a community or coach becomes important. This is one of the reasons why Sleep Well was created. It is a space where you can remind yourself of the importance of sleep, stay consistent in your pro-sleep practices, receive reminders on sleep hygiene, and keep abreast on sleep health and wellness. In addition, Sleep Well is associated with my sleep initiative, which was developed so that people could learn about good sleep through education and coaching.
Our team is actively involved in cutting-edge sleep research. So, the knowledge that we bring from these activities, along with insights from our personal experiences, contributes to our being able to share with you real-life, practical applications that promote good sleep.
So, subscribe to our blog, and we'll share these insights with you on a regular basis. Likewise, visit the Sleep Well Facebook page and give it a like to receive notifications on upcoming events as well. We're going to be engaging with you more directly in webinars as well as in our group, once that is launched. The podcast is still in the works... I still have a lot of editing to do on it, but it's getting there. The first episode is actually ready, but I felt that its tone was too light for the very serious issues that we are currently facing in our everyday lives in 2020. So, I decided to hold off on its launch - you know.
Until the next blog post, I wish you a good night's rest.