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Question
Posted by: Samantha | 2010/11/16

sleepless and restless

Good morning

I have always struggled to sleep even as a child. My sleep cycle never last more than 5 hours, if I''m lucky. Mostly I get about 1-3 hour sleep in or go sleepless for almost 2 days. I wake during the night and cannot get back to sleep. My mind is all over the place. Even in my dreams, I would be fixing problems and planning my day ahead. I am now 40 and I struggle to keep up now as I get older.

My work is very demanding and I carry a lot of responsibility. I was told that I need mindfullness training as I am always restless and pushing myself harder and harder to the extent where I was hospitalised twice this year.

How do I deal with my inability to switch off?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

You say you normally slept at most 5 yours - how did that suit you ? Some of us sleep less hours than others and feel fine and function well( Maggie Thatcher, once Prime Minister of the UK, apparently slept 5 hours or more and was ferociously successful )
"Mindfulness training" is greatly over-rated by those marketing it. But you may well be depressed or anxious, or otherwised distressed in ways that would respond well to normal treatments, once the problem is properly identified. You should see a good local psychiatrist for a thorough assessment, to identify the basic problem(s) and discuss a range of treatment options. Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy ( CBT ) is more likely to help you control your anxiety-driven tendency to push yourself too hard, while remaining effective and much happier.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Samantha | 2010/11/18

Thank you for the comments. I will make a concerted effort to focus on leaving everything at the bedroom door. As you say Liza it is difficult to unlearn bad habits but at this stage I have no options.

My pushing myself too hard will be even more difficult to change I have always driven myself to breaking point even as a child. It was the search for perfection that made me this restless and hyper. I also overcommit to everything I do and to more than I should do. I have to make a lot of changes to my life.

Thank you for the feedback.

Reply to Samantha
Posted by: Liza | 2010/11/16

You have a bad sleeping habit acquired over years of sleeping difficulties. And like any bad habit, it can be broken. It just takes a lot of time and effort.

First - when you climb into bed - do you do anything besides trying to fall asleep? e.g. watching tv ? You need to teach your subconscious that the bed is there for sleeping. It makes breaking the habit much easier.

Routines - you have to ensure that you have a bedtime routine. Then you have to follow this routine at the same time every night so that you get into bed at the same time every night. Having a set routine helps to form a new good sleeping habit.

Light - I read about a study done on the effect light has on sleeping patterns. People sleep better when it is completely dark. Light acts like a stimulant, making it much harder to fall asleep. Things like computer screens emit quite a bit of light - which means that if you''re working on a computer before you go to sleep, you''re still stimulated and falling asleep is much harder. So for an hour before going to bed - no working on the computer or reading a e-book.

Switching off - My mind is also frequently all over the place. The trick is to catch yourself as soon as you start to think about anything besides sleeping. I force my thoughts to sing the same short repetitive phrase over and over again (like a mantra). As soon as I realize I''m not singing the phrase in my mind, I start again. It doesn''t matter how many times I start to think of something else - I return to the song and eventually I fall asleep. This does however take lots of practice before it really starts to help. This does in effect train your mind into switching off.

Sorry for the long answer.
Liza

Reply to Liza
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010/11/16

You say you normally slept at most 5 yours - how did that suit you ? Some of us sleep less hours than others and feel fine and function well( Maggie Thatcher, once Prime Minister of the UK, apparently slept 5 hours or more and was ferociously successful )
"Mindfulness training" is greatly over-rated by those marketing it. But you may well be depressed or anxious, or otherwised distressed in ways that would respond well to normal treatments, once the problem is properly identified. You should see a good local psychiatrist for a thorough assessment, to identify the basic problem(s) and discuss a range of treatment options. Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy ( CBT ) is more likely to help you control your anxiety-driven tendency to push yourself too hard, while remaining effective and much happier.

Reply to cybershrink

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