Can’t sleep? It’s more likely an anxiety issue than a sleep issue.

Can’t sleep? It’s more likely an anxiety issue than a sleep issue.

Did you find this article because you are up late at night and cannot sleep? Are you suffering from regular bouts of insomnia? Do you have periods, such as the one you in now where you cannot sleep for days or weeks and then it’ll pass? Do you get anxious about the next time you will get insomnia? Do you keep searching for practical ways to solve your sleep problems but often they don’t work, or you can’t keep them up with any meaningful success? Do you need prescription medication to help you sleep?

Well, often these failed attempts to correct poor sleep and/or insomnia is a result of incorrectly defining the problem. People are struggling with sleep issues are often really dealing with issues of anxiety and/or depression. Anxiety and depression are often the culprits for poor sleep. Bad sleep is a symptom or consequence of the unrecognized and not dealt with anxiety and depression.

Common ways anxiety or depression affect sleep are:

·        Fall asleep easily but wake up after 2-3 hours and cannot fall back to sleep

·        Cannot fall asleep until the late morning like 3am or 4am or 5am often resulting in only a couple of hours sleep a night.

·        Even though you are utterly exhausted only getting a few hours of sleep every night, you cannot reliably or easily fall asleep or stay asleep.

·        Falling asleep but waking with a start or almost the feeling of a panic attack. You may be sweaty and with a racing heart. This is often not really tied to any dream that you were having.

·        Developing anxiety about going to sleep

It is important to rule out any medical issues that could be affecting your sleep. But, if there are no medical concerns, then this points to issues of anxiety and/or depression. This needs to be treated by therapy to address whatever is causing the depression or anxiety.

You may be wondering how could depression or anxiety be affecting you? You feel fine, you have stress, no more than anyone else. You don’t believe that you are that unusual. You can’t believe your lack of sleep is due to a mental health issue.

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Many people often incorrectly think about mental health as something that is just about common sense. Right, if sleep is necessary, it should be a common sense solution to fixing the problem. Many people come in wanting to know HOW to sleep better.

But sleep, like other necessary behaviors people need, is impacted by our mental states and our ability to be aware of and process our complex thoughts and feelings. Many people with sleep issues, are not dealing with complex situations in their life. Often, they are in some sort of denial about an important relationship, work situation, family issue or financial issue.

Many people engage in primitive or sophisticated forms of denial to avoid seeing what is in front of them because they are not prepared to deal with the complex issue. Examples are, they are falling out of love with their spouse or partner, but don’t want to deal with this. They are unhappy with their sex life but can’t face it. The individual doesn’t want to deal with the fact that they are becoming obsolete at work and may loose their job. The person doesn’t want to face the financial situations they are having at home, and just hoping it will go away. Perhaps the person, can’t face and deal with the serious and growing situation of their child’s behavior at school. Whatever it is, many people are not ready to deal with the issues facing their life.

When people block these things and push them out of their consciousness, the unconscious gets activated when we try to sleep. Thus, when you are tired and your mental defenses are down, such as at bedtime, and these thoughts can rise to surface of your consciousness, you block them, and you cannot sleep. It’s a bit more complicated, but hopefully you get the point.

Therapy is a process of forming a special therapeutic relationship with the therapist to help people develop the skills to become aware of their feelings and thoughts. Therapy helps people to face the reality of their life, manage complex feelings and learn how to live in the here and now to make healthy informed choices, even if they are difficult and hard to handle. The therapist never decides for the client or tells them what to do but helps the client to face their reality and all the strong feelings they may have to make informed, grounded reality-based decisions.

If you would like to learn more, contact All in the Family Counselling Centre Pte Ltd. to arrange for an initial consultation. Preferred communication is via WhatsApp at +6590307239 or email at tammy @ allinthefamilycounselling DOT COM

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