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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

Causes of Insomnia and How to Overcome It (The Complete Guide)

Causes of Insomnia and How to Overcome It (The Complete Guide)

Having issues sleeping is a sure fire way to live a less fulfilled life. Personally, I’m a believer that getting enough sleep consistently is one of the best things that you can do for your health. Feeling out of control and powerless over your ability to get a good nights rest can make you nuts.

If you’re struggling with insomnia, this article will help shed some light on the causes and provide resolutions to your sleep issues.

What Is Insomnia?

In a nutshell, insomnia is the inability to sleep. What’s so brutally torturous about insomnia is that you can be completely exhausted, yet unable to fall asleep.

Insomnia can be an acute issue (short term), meaning that it can creep into your life for a night or a few weeks.

It can also present as a chronic issue, meaning it ebbs and flows and comes and visits you every know and then, although uninvited. Chronic insomnia is diagnosed when the individual suffers at least three nights a week for three months or longer.

Symptoms of Insomnia

There are a spider web of symptoms that can root from insomnia, especially when it shows up chronically in your life. According to WebMD, general symptoms of insomnia can include:[1]

  • Sleepiness during the day
  • General tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Problems with concentration or memory

In addition to these general symptoms, insomnia can effect your relationships, career life and limit activities that give you joy, strictly because you don’t have the energy or motivation to do them.

Feeling exhausted really takes a huge toll on your mood, energy level and overall zest for life. Just like any issue, overtime a lot of other consequences can, and most likely will, result. This is so with lack of sleep.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia can strike any of us at any point of our lives. A major cause of sleeplessness is stress and worry.

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I know that when I’ve had periods of time where there has been a ton on my mind, it’s resulted in sleep disturbance. I can recall nights just laying there as hours past by.

Below are more detailed reasons why insomnia would come knocking at your door:

According to WebMD, the causes of acute insomnia can include:

  • Significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving)
  • Illness
  • Emotional or physical discomfort
  • Environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep
  • Some medications (for example those used to treat colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma) may interfere with sleep
  • Interferences in normal sleep schedule (jet lag or switching from a day to night shift, for example)

According to WebMD causes of chronic insomnia include:

How to Overcome Insomnia

There are, without a doubt, many things you can attempt to do differently in order to get your sleep habits back to a healthy state. Even if you’ve struggled with sleep for years, please know that you can find relief.

Here are 10 tips on how to combat insomnia:

1. Believe That You Can Develop a Healthy Sleep Life

Believing that you can is a huge part in getting beyond any difficulty. If that’s where you need to start, it’s worth really looking at your belief system surrounding what’s possible for your sleep patterns.

Just as if you didn’t believe that you can find love, if you don’t believe that you can find a good groove with your sleep, it will be very difficult to do so.

2. Stay Away from Any Screen Time Before Bed

Everything that you come across is being ingested, including what you watch and listen too.

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Be mindful to make time to wind down before bed by disconnecting from anything that’s coming at you. This can be a violent flick or a charged up sports game.

To go further, even if you’re watching something mellow, the blue light from screens can affect circadian rhythms, which can mess up your sleep cycle.

Just as you can feel super loopy after traveling that entails changing time zones, your devices can have a similar effect.

3. Have a Consistent Bed Time

I get it, routines can take the fun away from life, although some routines can guarantee that the fun will keep going around.

Just like little kids need consistency via their routines to avoid melt downs, we, as adults, need to do consistent things for our health to stay grounded.

Having a consistent bedtime routine allows your body to have a flow, which will help it, overall, function at its best.

4. Avoid Caffeine Intake After Noon

I know that asking some of you to avoid caffeine all together is just a hard “No.” Therefore, I’ll ask you to avoid any intake of caffeine after 12pm.

Why, you ask?

This gives your body time to process the stimulant effects that caffeine has and can potentially really help your sleep cycle.

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5. Keep an Eye on Your Alcohol Intake

If you’re struggling with sleep, drinking is one habit that can truly be interfering with your sleep.

Alcohol can cause waking in the night and interferes with sleep quality. It’s deceiving because initially alcohol can make you “pass out” and fall asleep quickly, although the deepest and most restful part of sleep, (REM), rapid eye movement sleep, is compromised when we drink alcohol.

This is why, even if we do sleep sound after a couple drinks, the quality of our sleep was not a pure that it would be without alcohol processing in our bodies.

6. Move Your Body Consistently

I feel like this suggestion is always on one of my tip lists! Getting regular exercise has so many benefits including what it can do for your sleep pattern.

Utilizing up some of your daily energy by moving your body is a win/win on so many levels. It keeps you fit, it keeps you feeling emotionally better, it helps release endorphins and it can improve the quality of your sleep.

If you’re having issues sleeping; try regular exercise. It could be a game changer for you.

7. Don’t Go to Bed Full

When we go to bed full, we are already at a disadvantage because being full is uncomfortable.

Eliminating any states of discomfort is a key step to ensuring that our sleep is going to be higher quality. Be mindful of eating a big meal right before you go to sleep. Your digestive track will be happy not to have to go into busy mode when your system is trying to shut down.

8. Create a Zen Vibe in Your Bedroom

One of the key ways to create an ideal sleep environment is to bring a sense of calm and comfort to your sleep space. If you have the means, invest in nice bedding, buy an essential oil diffuser (lavender oil is great for calming), get some amethyst stones to promote calming and healing energy.

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Do your best to make sure your sleep environment is dark, quiet, and not too warm or cold. Do whatever you are called to do to make your bedroom a place of peace and rest. Need I say to avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep (or sex.)

9. Make a List

What do you mean make a list? I mean, that if you find yourself with a racing mind right before bedtime, write your thoughts down.

Take all the mental noise and write it down in a list type format to put it somewhere other than floating around in your head. This action has been so helpful for some of my clients that have struggled with sleep disturbance.

10. Find Flow through Rhythm

There have been times where I have literally self soothed my way back to sleep by finding rhythm. I’ve found rhythm with counting numbers; both backward and forward. Although, I don’t care what you count; just count.

Counting creates rhythm and it also creates a space to focus our thoughts. This is especially true for those of us who have a worried and racing mind.

The Bottom Line

As I mentioned a bit earlier, there is hope for anyone struggling with sleep disturbance. A significant first step toward addressing any issue is becoming more familiar with it.

We can combat this issue with understanding symptoms and causes. Often times, we’ve never been taught that simple, small habits that we’ve been doing can be the gateway to our disturbed sleep patterns. That one shot of expresso after dinner can be a killer for those of us struggling with sleep.

Do your pat to clear up all that you can on your end, but tidying up what’s within your control.

As always, if your symptoms continue there are specialist and other avenues to take. Talk with your medical doctor to get more details of higher levels of assistance toward your sleep.

Be well.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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Kim Egel

Kim Egel is a licensed therapist whose private practice is centered around the concepts of the mind, body & soul connection.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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