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There are many reasons why you can’t sleep. Stress is one of the main reasons your sleep starts to struggle. You probably already know this from moments in your life. Your so hyped up with excitement, you can’t sleep, or so worried about something, you stare at the ceiling all night. It’s a very common problem to millions of people and it’s a form of stress. The trouble begins when these one off’s become a constant thaw in your side. And this is my story of what can happen when it does.
My own experience of stress started at work, when the demands of the job got the better of me. I was a Firefighter and not only were my working conditions being eroded, there were threats to both my job and my pension. I felt both were vital to my existence, so I took the threats personally and seriously and my mental health suffered. All this additional stress had turned me into an insomniac. And I was stressed to the hilt.
It came to a point where at one stage I hadn’t slept for 2 nights in a row. My Blood Pressure had shot through the roof. My heart was racing at what seemed to me an impossible rate, and I felt weak and vulnerable. I went to the A& E dept in desperation. I said “I can’t sleep”. They did some tests, found my massively high Blood Pressure, gave me some pills and sent me to the Doctors.
Doctor (I can’t sleep)
My doctor wasn’t particularly interested and I quickly found out there are NO sleep centres run by the NHS in the UK. This I couldn’t believe. How can it be that one of the biggest problems faced by millions of people every year as no centre of treatment or advice? As I was about to find out, that was the least of my problems.
My Doctor was more concerned if I was suicidal (which I wasn’t) but eventually he decided I needed sleeping tablets. Indeed, I was eventually prescribed Sleeping Tablets, Anti-Depressants, and High Blood Pressure tablets. I was now too ill to work, which I was terribly upset about which just made it all the worse. My sleep was so poor that if I didn’t take the sleeping pills I wouldn’t sleep at all hardly and wake up the next day so tired, with a deep aching in my chest, unable to concentrate and desperately unhappy in general.
I was like this for some months and away from work for 6 months in total. During this period I tried everything, and I mean everything to get my “good sleep” back. Books, CD’s, Lights, Aromatic pills, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) etc etc etc. I now consider myself an expert in the field. I’m certainly far more of an expert than a doctor that has never experienced Insomnia that’s for sure.
7 years after all this started I can tell you I never really recovered the sleep that I used to get previously, but I have adapted and learnt how to cope with now infrequent bad nights. I ditched the anti-depressants, but I still use the sleeping tablets, perhaps once a week, only out of necessity and it’s 3am and I haven’t yet got to sleep.
But in general, I have learnt how to cope with the stress. I believe that Stress is the no1 reason why you may be suffering, sometimes in silence. Of course, my onslaught of stress was caused by work related issues, but yours could be Family, Illness, Finances, all sorts of different reasons or combinations of many reasons. Everyone is different yet we are all the same. We do need sleep, but I’ve learnt not to worry too much if I don’t get my 8 hours in, sometimes I only get 6 hours sleep, but it doesn’t matter, that’s not gong to kill me. Trust me, I have had 4 hours sleep, gone to my job and been in arduous work for the whole day and still not slept well the following night, so it won’t kill you, but it can make you ill if it carries on.
Anyway, my mission now is to help other sufferers, and yes, there are a lot. There is no statement that I hear that is worse than “I can’t sleep”.
I want to give advice and encouragement when I can. If you leave me a comment I will try to respond. I have lot’s of general advice to follow about a plethora of issues surrounding Sleep, so if any of these apply to yourself, please try to help yourself by trying out some of my tips and methods. Some of these will work for you and some won’t. I can’t believe some of the things I have tried in my pursuit of quality sleep, but my experiences may help you avoid the pot holes and yes, there can be a few!
CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)
One of the most important aspects is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. This is where you change the way you think about Sleep and life in general and make sometimes very small changes to your lifestyle which really become the cure for your problem. I am going to do a complete post on the subject, but just for your curiosity I will tell you one of my changes that benefited me in a great way with hardly any cost at all.
My family, friends and colleagues obviously knew about my problem and most were obsessed with the sleeping part of it all, they couldn’t understand how I was still functioning after no sleep and they would say things like, “Man, I would be dead with 4 hours sleep” or “Why don’t you just get drunk?” etc etc.
Not a day went by without someone making a comment about the issue and what was happening was the issue was becoming ingrained on everyone. I would answer that “it was terrible, and “I just can’t sleep” or “I don’t know how I have managed myself” All negative stuff! Like a self prophesying wish.
But after trying CBT for a while I started answering with “well, it’s getting better” and more positive comments like “I could be a lot worse” etc. It was a subtle change but meant I was treating my problem as a temporary problem rather than a permanent condition. So a subtle change had taken place, from “it’s the end of world” thoughts I originally had, to “OK, it’s a problem, but it’s getting better now” thoughts that I have today.
I hope my story has been some help to you, maybe you recognise some of the issues in yourself. If you do, just remember, you can beat this. It’s a problem, sure, but human beings are tremendously adaptive. Take some advice and you will find your level.
I would now like to discuss some can’t sleep issues in more detail in the following posts!