Lifestyle

I’m a sleep expert – here are 3 surprising ways we can help people with insomnia

A SLEEP expert has uncovered the worst things to do when you have insomnia — and the surprising ways it’s really treated.

Sleep physiologist Stephanie Romiszewski showed that the sleep disorder is often wrongly addressed.

Sleep physiologist Stephanie Romiszewski has said that one of the worst things you can do when you suffer from insomnia is lie in bed and wait for sleep

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Sleep physiologist Stephanie Romiszewski has said that one of the worst things you can do when you suffer from insomnia is lie in bed and wait for sleepPhoto credit: Getty

Around 10 percent meet criteria for sleep disorders, says the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Insomnia can last for just a few days (transient), last for a few weeks (acute), or become chronic and last for several months or even years.

How it’s addressed could affect how long it lasts – and it’s largely in your own control, explains Stephanie, who runs the Sleepyhead Clinic in Exeter.

People try to go to bed earlier, take naps, or swallow sleeping pills to make up for lost hours.

But this can make symptoms worse by confusing the body even more, she says.

Instead, one of the ways experts are fixing the condition is by restricting bedtime in those with insomnia.

Here’s what you need to know…

How NOT to deal with insomnia

Realizing you have insomnia can be scary.

Stephanie told The Sun: “Unfortunately, insomnia has that label. And what comes with that is this real fear that makes people do weird things.”

Stephanie says when people worry they’re not getting enough sleep, their first reaction is often to “change their behavior quite significantly.”

This can often lead to further problems.

“Sleep is all about time,” says Stephanie.

“If you start messing with the goalposts by changing your wake-up time and going to bed early… basically trying to manipulate sleep because you fear you’ll stop sleeping, that’s actually a way of making the sleep problem worse.” .”

Similarly, Stephanie warns about coping mechanisms that only increase anxiety in your life.

Things like “sleeping pills, not going to the gym, not seeing friends, moving away from the life you want to live.”

“Suddenly you’re a complete shell of your former self,” she warns.

“Not only do you have a sleep problem, you also have a huge anxiety problem.”

This reaction to short-term insomnia can chronically cement the condition in one’s life.

Once you realize that insomnia is just a pattern, you have the ability to change the pattern

Stephanie

“Why hasn’t this sleep problem gone? Well, usually it’s not the original trigger anymore,” says Stephanie.

“Once you have it for more than three months, it becomes a habitual problem, which means your brain starts to see it as a pattern.

“Actually, it’s because you’ve retrained the brain to a new pattern with all the behavioral and coping mechanisms you thought would help.

“And when you realize that insomnia is just a pattern, you have the ability to change the pattern.”

What to do instead

Relax…

Stephanie says one of the first things to understand about insomnia is that it doesn’t mean there’s anything genetically wrong with you, or that there’s some type of chemical imbalance in the brain.

It can be addressed through a change in beliefs and behaviors.

Most sleep problems are “perfectly normal” and common.

And while the word insomnia can be scary, which means “no sleep” in Latin, you don’t have to take it quite so literally.

“If people with insomnia didn’t get any sleep at all, they would be dead,” says Stephanie.

“That’s not actually the case with insomnia. That’s the first point to make, because people get really scared.

“They think something terrible is going to happen. But actually that is not the case.”

Only one form of insomnia called fatal familial insomnia, a genetic disorder, has the ability to kill in a matter of weeks — and it’s incredibly rare.

How the experts treat insomnia

Treating insomnia is about retraining the brain and educating it about how sleep works, says Stephanie.

Limit bedtime

The first thing insomniacs should do is stop spending so much time in bed and force yourself to nod off.

“A lot of people with insomnia will think, ‘I need to increase my time in bed to try to promote sleep,'” says Stephanie.

“But that doesn’t come from any science that we know of. You cannot fall asleep simply by spending more time in the place where you used to sleep.

“You actually need to limit your bedtime.”

It sounds counterintuitive, but limiting the time you spend in bed can help improve sleep quality.

Sleep quality, experts argue, is more important than sleep quantity.

It relates to how restorative and useful your sleep is versus how long you spend asleep.

You cannot fall asleep simply by spending more time in the place where you used to sleep

Stephanie

Limit the time you spend in bed = no daytime naps and no sleeping in. This will help you create a sleep drive (AKA a strong desire to sleep).

“After a while, you realize that your body is actually giving you that wonderful, really good night’s sleep. You suddenly have control over your sleep again,” says Stephanie.

“Once we have that good quality, we add time [hours asleep].”

But as a patient with insomnia, you need to drop the notion that eight hours of blissful sleep is either necessary or achievable.

“We need to help you understand what good sleep is, and that doesn’t mean perfection. Sometimes you don’t sleep well,” admits Stephanie.

CBTi

A therapist may offer cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi), which combines a number of psychological strategies to reprogram the brain.

“For example, cognitive restructuring can help us identify and change negative thought patterns,” notes Stephanie.

“Another example is fear exposure; When I’m about to treat a patient I have to help them understand that they’re going to have some bad nights, but actually it’s completely normal and it won’t end up like it used to, which is chronic insomnia. because they now have much healthier strategies for dealing with it.

“The more they see it that way, the more the anxiety diminishes and the quicker it is to get back on track and sleep normally again.

“We also do acceptance and commitment therapy, which tries to help you accept and deal with the sleep problem and the anxiety issues that can come with it, and the fact that there is something we can do about it.

“We need to help give you the push and reassurance you need to effectively challenge the status quo – what you hear about sleep in the general population, which is quite wrong – and actually do something to help you.” “

CBTi – “the evidence-based, highly scientific way of treating sleep” – isn’t always available on the NHS, says Stephanie, but it’s always worth speaking to your GP if you’re concerned about your sleep.

Stephanie was a guest on Holland & Barrett’s The Wellness Edit podcast – listen to the February episode Reset Your Sleep here.

https://www.thesun.ie/health/8799244/how-insomnia-treated-surprising-ways-sleep-expert/ I’m a sleep expert – here are 3 surprising ways we can help people with insomnia

Fry Electronics Team

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