People sometimes ask whether chronic insomnia is mainly a physiological or a psychological problem. Often it’s both.
Certain beliefs about sleep can interfere with getting a good night’s rest. A reality check can help you sort out truth from myth, which in turn may help you sleep.
If you have chronic insomnia, you may have developed anxiety about sleep. I had lots of sleep-related anxiety until I went through sleep restriction. Once my sleep stabilized, the anxiety disappeared.
Studies have shown that cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) is modestly effective at controlling anxiety. It’s FDA approved and widely used in the armed forces for anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, and depression.
Only a minority of the insomnia sufferers I interviewed for The Savvy Insomniac said their insomnia began in childhood. But regardless of when their sleep problem began, a number reported having had stressful and/or abusive experiences in childhood.
Is there a relationship between adverse childhood experiences and insomnia later in life? Anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests there is.
Lately I’ve been hearing from people who improved their sleep using sleep restriction or full-blown CBT for insomnia (CBT-I) and then experience a relapse. They have a few bad nights and fear they’ve lost all the gains they made. Here’s how one reader recently described her plight:
“I realize that sometimes I will get scared when I have one or two bad nights once in a while. I’m afraid that insomnia will haunt me once again. Is this normal? What can I do?”
I went to my family physician for a routine physical last week. I hadn’t had one in a while, so I decided to get the exam and requisitions for the usual blood work.
This doctor is one whose opinions I respect. But I never hesitate to speak up when information I have leads me to question those opinions. One topic we’ve had discussions about is insomnia and sleeping pills.
Kava (Piper methysticum) holds promise as an alternative treatment for anxiety and insomnia. But I’ve refrained from blogging about kava and kava supplements due to concerns about liver toxicity.
Now a comprehensive review funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the journal Fitoterapia has eased those concerns. I can write about kava, native to Hawaii and other Pacific islands, as I would any other medicinal plant, summarizing benefits and risks.
People come here looking for solutions to sleep problems. Some read about sleep restriction, a drug-free insomnia treatment, and decide to try it on their own. It’s not rocket science: insomnia sufferers who follow the guidelines often improve their sleep. It’s empowering to succeed.
But self-treatment is not the right approach for everyone. Sometimes insomnia is complicated by another disorder, or what looks like insomnia is actually something else. In both cases, the best thing to do is to have yourself evaluated by a sleep specialist ASAP.