by Lara Schuster Effland, LCSW

Lara Schuster EfflandThe agony of insomnia affects about 10 to 35 percent of us. Once sleep loss starts, it becomes a psychological and physical battle.

It can feel like the myth of Sisyphus, who night after night pushed a large weighted stone up a hill only to see it roll down again. But there are ways to reduce the weight and size of this “stone.”

Research and clinical experience show that insomnia is associated with reduced quality of life as well as depression. In turn, depression can lead to sleep problems. Insomnia can also lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, exhaustion, and an inability to concentrate.

The more we look for sleep, the less we find it. Let go of the pursuit and focus on doing what you can to improve the situation.

Calm Your Mind

You can take actions to improve the quality of your nighttime rest. In the moments of your sleeplessness and distress, you can work to calm your mind and body through the use of conscious relaxation, cognitive therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy techniques. I recommend that you first consult your therapist, psychiatrist, or doctor to ensure that you have no psychological issues, medical complications, or medication interactions that could be causing your difficulties with sleep.

When it comes to sleep hygiene, studies show that a bedtime routine that includes a period of time to unwind can be effective. A common practice is to turn off all electronics after 9:00 pm and then get dressed and washed up for the night. Once ready for bed, do a relaxation exercise and spend 30 minutes reading a book before finally closing your eyes. If you are still struggling to sleep, try to reduce the amount of time you toss and turn by getting out of bed and going to a quiet, comfortable spot in another room or area of the bedroom to read or do more relaxation exercises.

Focus on the Body

If you have consistent trouble calming your mind, it can be more effective to focus on the body first. You can use relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and somatic therapy techniques. One example of these techniques is to focus on your breath and body rather than on negative thought patterns and frustration. To do so, you breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. This simple exercise will automatically slow down your breathing and help your body relax. Then, after a few breaths, breathe through your nose for both the inhalation and exhalation, and begin to follow your abdomen’s rise and fall. This is called “riding the wave” of your breathing. Even if you do not fall asleep, your body is at rest.

To work with the mind, cognitive therapy and DBT techniques can be effective in challenging negative thinking and inserting reaffirming statements. A challenging statement could be, “Even though I am struggling to fall asleep, I can work to calm my mind and body the best I can.” Or, “I am struggling with sleep, and it will not last forever. I can be patient.” You want to validate your feelings, state the facts, and reassure yourself that you are doing the best that you can. Keep a log of your sleep activity, helpful ways you cope with negative thinking, and your relaxation exercises — all helpful for you as well as your health care professionals.

Lara Schuster Effland, LCSW, is the Vice President of the Mood and Anxiety Program and Residential Services at Insight Behavioral Health Centers of Chicago. Ms. Effland clinically specializes and trains others in dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness-based therapies, exposure and response prevention, and trauma treatment.

I am absolutely agreeing on a point that if a person focuses on his body rather than focusing on his mind then he will feel a reduced stress and he will get a sound sleep. Meditation really works. My mother with a <a href="">Parkinson's disease</a> tried this and she totally fine with her sleep.

Samantha Christian

September 20, 2017

I am really thankful to you for sharing these incredibly useful tips on improving depression and sleep problems. However, I would like to add few more points in this section. For example.
1. Wake up at the same time each day.
2. Eliminate alcohol and stimulants like nicotine and caffeine.
3. Limit naps.
4. Exercise regularly.
5. Limit activities in bed.

Hope this helps.

Thanks & Regards,
Samantha Christian

Curious. I find that naps during the day help me to sleep better at night. I suppose everyone is different.

The problem is, when I go to sleep earlier I don't get that full eight or nine hours; I usually wake up at 5 or 6 AM so I'm still getting the same amount of sleep I would if I was closing my eyes at 1 or 2 AM.I am aware that sleeping regimens need time to kick in with the cycle, but it's been months now and I have no reprieve. Should I see a doctor? Take medication? Should i try taking medicinal cannabis like this one ??
Sucks, man. By like 3 or 4 PM I start dozing off again, and I come home and I just want to take a nap. Lack of energy, which impacts my gym regimen and general welfare. I don't want to do chores, or work, or even play video games in my down time because staring at the screen tires me out.

Hi Cameron, I am experiencing exactly the same problems as you (male, 30). I notice that if I am really happy e.g. lots of sun exposure, being physically active, enjoying company of friends/gf then I am likely to sleep much better. I guess the sleep problem is due to depression and lack of serotonin or similar. However I see it as a physical problem.
I would say that it's worth trying anything that would increase serotonin levels, I would be using marijuana if it was fully legal here, in its place I'm thinking of buying CBD oil. So yeah, go for it. Just use a vaporiser so that you don't damage your health from smoking. Good luck!

Read your post but still dont know how to do it. Been in this sleeping problem for almost 2 years but was not aware that am depressed. Only when i had a heart to heart talk with my doctor. Can somebody please post some more possible remedies? Thanks much!!

This is a very helpful tips for the people, who are suffering from sleep disorders from a long time. I am suffering from sleep apnea. Well I am using CPAP machine. I have bought <a href="">cpap masks for side sleepers</a>, it was recommended by my doctor. It is helping me for a good sleep. Still I want CPAP free life. I agree with your suggestion. I will follow your tips to have better life.