Insomnia affects 15 percent of adults in the UK and is a recurring issue for clients coming into therapy. But new research says it is possible to reset your body clock into a healthy sleep pattern – by going to bed earlier! This week’s University of Birmingham study links ‘night owl’ behaviour to depression and anxiety and, as well as an earlier bedtime, recommends getting plenty of morning sunshine, eating breakfast soon after waking and having dinner no later than 7 p.m.
Of course it makes sense to have good sleep habits like these, but sometimes inability to sleep is linked to deeper issues. It’s natural to sleep less as you age, and also natural for life events like childbirth or bereavement to disturb our sleep. But not being able to sleep may also indicate trauma, fear, or the presence of an unresolved life issue, making it easy for negative and anxious thoughts to take hold.
In therapy we would approach sleeplessness like any other message from the body – by listening to it and getting curious about what our system is telling us. An important first step when we’re suffering insomnia is to build self-compassion so that when we lie awake we are not berating ourselves for ‘failing’ to sleep. Instead we might begin to notice our thoughts and feelings as a caring parent might soothe a child.
If things are keeping you awake at night then those things need your attention. Have you considered giving waking time during the day to addressing those issues and getting some help?