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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

What You Need to Know to Help Heal Insomnia

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 21st 2009

insomniaOne third of the adult population in the United States suffers from insomnia at some point or another. There are a number of potential causes for insomnia, but the number one cause is often stress. In our culture and at this point in time, there are rising concerns about work, school, healthy and even stability of families which can make it difficult to relax.

If you do suffer from insomnia you may experience common symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty falling asleep

  • Waking up multiple times during the night

  • Waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep

  • Very sleepy or tired during the day

  • Irritability during the day

  • Relentless worrying about sleep issues

In many cases, insomnia is not the primary issue. Other issues such as anxiety, depression, or a medical issue may cause symptoms of insomnia and it would be best to try and work on healing those issues first. If you are on medications, even over the counter medications, those may also be a factor in sleep issues and it would be good to consult your physician and let him or her know about the insomnia.

Insomnia can be one of the most frustrating issues because our sleep is so fundamental to our mental and physical health. Herein lies the paradox, the more frustrated and stressed you get by it, the greater the sleep difficulties.

This is why I have found that after taking a thorough assessment and figuring out that your insomnia is not a result of other psychological or medical conditions and after weeding out any medications or foods (e.g., chocolate or caffeine) that may be disrupting your sleep, mindfulness is often a good approach to employ.

In a past blog I wrote about 5 tips to work with sleep problems. I want to add one very helpful technique to that here:

Keep a log to track your sleep pattern - Keep a log will help you get a good foundation of the factors involved with your current sleep regime so you know what you may want to change. For example, you may want to know whether you took any naps that day or what medications you did use. You may also want to know what time you got into bed and the amount of time it took to fall asleep (approximately). You may also want to know how many times you woke up during the night, the overall quality of your sleep and the time you actually got out of bed.

In keeping this log, you may be able to see some associations and patterns with what you do and how well you sleep. Keep it next to your bed where it is accessible and complete it first thing in the morning. Otherwise it may not get done.

Go ahead and try it for yourself. As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. What helps you with sleep? Your interactions are a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Drugs - Sofia Brunton - Dec 25th 2009

yes, having a sleep pattern will be good... but how about people that cannot establish a sleep pattern because of work? like nurses, doctors, and contractors? i think drugs should be use if sleep problems will affect their daily functions....

Insomnia and blood sugar - T Chan - Sep 25th 2009

Very interesting post. I think some aspects of mindfulness are particularly beneficial for insomnia. When I first learned the "Body Scan" I was amazed to find how much tension I held in my body when I was supposed to be at my most relaxed.

But I have to add that for many people a carbohydrate snack is the most important thing. I complex-carbohydrate such as an oat cake or wholemeal bread tends to help keep your blood sugar constant while sleeping, which promotes a full night's sleep.

Natural Choices - Cathy - Sep 21st 2009

An advocate for natural medicine, we use things like herbal tea preparations, exercise - nothing like a walk in the fresh air to relieve stress and help one sleep, physical activity is nearly a dead art in the world today.  Shutting off electronic stimulation (tv, computer, etc.) an hour before bed.  Also, my son with disaibilities had trouble sleeping and we used melatonin  which really worked good for him.  Another is to think of what is bothering you if you know specifically and then close your fist tightly and release it like you are releasing the "troubles" and recently I found what worked well is to clear my mind of the troubling issue by thinking about something boring like what I am going to do with all the peppers in garden, or what needs to be cleaned or dusted and I don't like to think about those things so my brain said "we aren't going there" and shut off the lights and went to sleep. 

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