Self Improvement — 20 February 2011
Does your overactive mind interfere with your sleep?

Many people experience sleep difficulties that are a source of emotional, social and marital difficulties. Learning how to improve your chances for a better night’s sleep may be helpful to your health and relationships.

Insomnia, the inability to sleep, affects about one in three Americans and negatively impacts the daytime functioning of 9% to 15% of people, as reported by the recent “Harvard Mental Health Letter.”

Epidemiologists DE Ford and DB Kamerow found that individuals with unresolved insomnia had significantly higher rates of subsequent episodes of both depression and anxiety disorders at a one-year follow-up compared with those whose insomnia was resolved.

Studies at the Insomnia Canadian Sleep Centers indicate that, “people with chronic insomnia have memory complaints, poorer work performance, more work-related accidents, increased absenteeism and receive fewer promotions than those without a sleep problem.”

Sleeplessness may even cause marital strife. Sharing a bed with a partner who tosses and turns, sighs, is agitated and restless due to insomnia, certainly impacts the comfort of the spouse as well.

Yet, insomnia is not a disease. It is a condition whose physiological variance was reported by researchers Bonnet and Arand as relating to a significant increase in oxygen use. Other researchers studying those who worry associated sleep disturbance with a genetic trait of excessive preoccupations. Yet other researchers assigned the cause of sleep difficulties to “having an overactive mind.”

Whatever the etiology of sleep deprivation may be, it is a most disturbing experience to those living with it. In remediating sleep disorders, behavioral and environmental changes have been recommended as well as treatment with Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Behaviorally, another study by MH Bonnet and DL Arand found, “use of 400 mg. of caffeine three times a day for one week resulted in excessive arousal on metabolic measures and reports typical of insomniac complaints.” Excessive use of caffeine and strenuous exercise delay the onset of sleep. Use of alcohol may lead to dehydration and provoke awakening.

Relaxation techniques are recommended to calm the mind and relax the body in transition from our active aroused state to a calmer transition to sleep.

Environmentally, researchers recommend: setting a cool temperature in the bedroom, eliminating light, abstaining from doing work in bed and designating the bedroom only for sex and sleep.

Psychologically, we need to abstain from reserving night time for: rehearsing concerns, planning, getting in touch with anger and frustration, reciting to ourselves how we have been wronged, maltreated or deprived of desired needs, or berating and belittling ourselves. Instead, we need to sooth ourselves through acceptance and self-appreciation.

To improve your capacity for relaxed sleep:

• Welcome sleep as a soothing friend – not as a feared foe.
• Designate planning and worrying to another time of the day.
• Read, relax, meditate and unwind in your special way for half an hour prior to retiring.
• Count your blessings about your day, your essence and your precious spouse and family.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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