Insomnia, My Old Enemy

By Nicolas Gurley

There comes a time, for some of us much more often than others, when sleep is
our worst enemy. Most of the time, I love the idea of slipping into bed and then deep slumber shortly after. However, I go through these periods, usually around final exam time, when no matter how tired I feel, I know that I will not be sleeping very well and I dread going to bed and trying. Despite the fact that anxiety can be physically and emotionally draining, these feelings just will not let you go to sleep.
The expression “tossing and turning” is quite fitting in these situation as the act is
pretty descriptive of the frustration you feel in moments of insomnia. As if aggressively changing positions over and over again is actually going to help you get to sleep. All you are really doing is building up anger and frustration toward the fact that you cannot sleep, which ironically only makes it even less likely you will be able to fall asleep. This is because as you are doing this you are cuing your body to release biological chemicals which do not promote sleep or a state of restfulness. Instead these bio-chemicals keep you focused on and thinking about all the things that are making you feel anxious, over and over and over again. Until you cannot take it any more and give up by turning on the lights.
Feelings of anxiety are natural human feelings and completely unavoidable for
most of us. In times of significant anxiety it can be very difficult to quite your mind enough to find the much needed peacefulness of sleep. For some you, insomnia is only a once in a while problem, but for others it can be a life long, everyday struggle. There are a lot of things you can do to help quite your mind. The quickest and easiest solution being medication or drugs, but this is only circumventing the problem without actually dealing with it. When you use substances to get to sleep the problems causing your insomnia will not go away, which means that you will still have to deal with them and the feelings of anxiety when you are awake. The fact that you are not dealing with the problem also means that you are likely to come to believe that you will never be able to get to sleep without the aid of that substance, which is the definition of a chemical dependence. In our practice, through talk therapy, we look to work together with you to identify the source of your feelings of anxiety and help you develop methods of effectively dealing with the issues so that you can actually quiet your mind enough to regain the pleasure of a goodnight’s sleep every night.

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