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How to handle effects of insomnia?

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  • How to handle effects of insomnia?

    Okay. Thrashing some problem around in my mind made it hard to go to sleep and easy to wake up at about 2:30 this morning. I went to the computer to write out my thoughts, write a couple of letters. Now it's almost six a.m. (the time I usually get up to start my workday). I feel crappy from lack of sleep, of course.

    I need nine hours to do really well, usually get seven.

    When I went to bed I already felt pretty exhausted from my day, and now I have to get ready for a typical exhausting week at work involving poor communication from management to staff, not enough staff to do all tasks required, crappy physical environment (ambient air temperature about sixteen degrees higher than the temperature at home, low humidity, dust), and few opportunities for doing other than sitting at a desk all day.

    What can I do today, exercise-wise, nutrition-wise, and otherwise to mitigate the effects of essentially about five hours of sleep and somehow function at work?


  • #2
    Caffeine, though I don't think 5 hours of sleep constitutes insomnia.
    Make America Great Again


    • #3
      I don't sleep well - haven't for years. I really noticed when I started lifting weights 3 x a week that, even when I've had a particularly bad night, I seem to cope with it much better...but that's probably because I just generally have more energy these days.


      • #4
        This is part of a post on my blog a few days ago answering someone's query regarding mindfulness ... I'm a lifer in the insomnia department and this section is about addressing sleep issues! This system works for re-training your brain/sleep patterns; it won't help today, but will help your tomorrows!

        "Acceptance - when I was in Barbados I attended 5 x 2 hour sessions with Dr Guy Meadows of The Sleep School - in fact, that's why I went, although the winter sun was certainly a wonderful bonus! Very briefly he teaches ACT (acceptance commitment therapy) techniques - it is mindfulness. I have found accepting what is, as it is, rather than wishing for it to be something different (which is actually impossible when you think about it), creates a big mind shift and actually frees you to move to where you want to be. You are not trying to change anything that is but simply moving to another place.

        This is how ACT works ... (and incidentally why yogis and other long-term meditators have scientifically measurable, lower stress markers and can literally 'quiet the mind').

        The amygdala (a part of our brain responsible for the unconscious mechanisms like breathing, heart pumping, danger-alert system etc) is monitoring 24/7 to trigger action within us to keep us alive - it's the watchman. It has evolved over millions of years from our earliest ancestors during times of actual threat. And it still functions the same way. Fast forward to modern times and we have many fight or flight signals around us (which are not life-threatening), and more importantly many are internally-generated, that do not require the kind of response the amygdala has evolved to deliver, and in the long term such continual triggering of stress hormones is actually counter-productive to our well being. An entire other blog post!

        ACT works to re-programme this area of the brain indirectly, as we have no direct control, through being present and learning to 'sit with' our emotions. The more we practice observing without reacting and allowing (accepting) all that we feel the less our system responds with stress chemicals which alert the amygdala into readiness that is not required.

        Guy works with insomnia, but the technique works for anything, but here is a sleep example.

        You wake in the night and panic that you won't get back to sleep and you won't be able to function the next day, you get up, you make tea, do the ironing, watch the TV, catch up on emails (anything to avoid lying in bed but not being asleep - kind of funny really when you think about it) ... these processes stimulate the brain and generate stress hormones at a time in the circadian rhythm when it should be calm which alerts the amygdala that there is a crisis. It remains on high alert, pumps out further action hormones. The next time you wake in the night the amygdala recognizes this previously caused a response to it starts pumping out the alertness hormones in anticipation . . . You of course feel even more awake and less likely to sleep and so the process goes on reinforcing itself.

        ACT - is learning to sit for about 10 minutes each day (ideally 3 x 3 - 4 minutes) where you simply notice what's going on. Firstly notice what you can hear, what you can smell, what you can see, and then turn inwards, what you can feel. In this way you begin the process of detaching yourself from your reactions and responses, which are not you. Whatever you can observe isn't who you are, because you are the observer. When an uncomfortable emotion or feeling arises, notice it, be curious, let it be, see what happens, does it move, intensify, change, does it have a colour, does a name come into your head - welcome all aspects of it. And watch it fade away. For insomnia whenever you find yourself awake in the night you put into practice the 'noticing' strategy rather than jumping out of bed or going through all the mental tortures of what you won't be able to achieve if you don't fall asleep again, you gradually re-programme your responses.

        With practice this technique works, without a doubt. The more in tune you become with what arises within, the more you can simply accept it and move forward. Once you accept, your amygdala begins to 'stand down', and over time will not be triggered into unhelpful actions which self-sabotage our best intentions."
        Last edited by Kelda; 04-15-2013, 02:09 PM.
        Seeking the natural way in a modern world ...


        • #5
          ACT sounds genuinely useful.

          What I often do, when I can't get my brain to shut off or when I can't seem to get comfortable physically, is say, "Okay, now, brain and body. If you don't need sleep, then don't sleep. If you do need sleep, then for freak's sake go to sleep." And either I go to sleep or get up, as I did this past weekend, and do stuff for a couple of hours before going back to bed.

          Yesterday in the wee hours, however, I woke up and (ironically) started going over and over a lot of issues related to trying to get approval from my health insurance provider for coverage of a dental device to treat sleep apnea. It has been a mind-numbing process. I just could not stop thinking about it all. So I got up and tried to off-load it by writing about it. . . .

          Five hours of sleep that are solid and good is not insomnia. Five hours of never quite falling asleep, thrashing in bed, chasing thoughts about an apparently insoluble problem . . . that ain't sleep, so what is it?

          Caffeine is a very obvious and potent solution to the effects of insomnia, but it makes me hyper and wrecks my stomach.

          Today I am doing much better. I actually did get to sleep last and even dreamed.