ACA Blog

Deb Del Vecchio-Scully
May 24, 2012

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

There is perhaps nothing as frustrating as not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep. I can personally attest to that! Sleep is essential for our bodies to rejuvenate and heal and when disturbed, can lead to many health issues including weight gain, migraines and headaches as well as difficulty concentrating and irritability. It is a problem that affects more than 75 million Americans according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. I see many clients affected by chronic sleep disturbance and in my experience, find it is most often related to anxiety, unmediated stress and poor sleep habits.

It is important to have insomnia medically evaluated to rule out sleep apnea which is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep.

If you are among the 75 million suffering from insomnia or treat clients with it - there is help. Sleep hygiene - essentially cleaning up your sleep behaviors - is quite effective in restoring sleep to its natural rhythm. I have found a holistic approach incorporating mind, body and emotions is most effective in improving poor sleep. Most who complain of mid-night awakening issues are not falling into a deep enough initial sleep to sustain sleep for an extended period of time which leads to non-restorative sleep.

Understanding the reasons for initial insomnia begins with identifying the factors impacting poor sleep. Stimulating activities such as exercise, an evening cup of coffee or watching mindless television can contribute to poor sleep patterns.

Often, my clients describe racing thoughts, anxiety and chronic pain as reasons they cannot fall asleep easily. Meditation, gentle yoga or breathing are very helpful techniques to share with patients and have been shown to shorten the duration of time it take to fall asleep, improve the quality of sleep and reduce symptoms such as hot flashes in menopausal women, chronic pain and to quiet the mind. I encourage clients to take time an hour before they want to be asleep to write down all their thoughts and then “close the book” on these thoughts.

Use these techniques and proper sleep hygiene and you may find yourself floating off to sleep more easily.

Sleep hygiene tips:

•Create a bedtime routine that effectively transitions you from wakefulness to sleep.
•Set a fixed bedtime and awakening time - the body will get used falling asleep but only if it's a relatively fixed schedule.
•Limit exposure to electronics 30 minutes before bedtime - electronics stimulate the brain and interfere with the ability to drift to sleep naturally.
•Create a quiet zone in your bedroom and reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex. Do not use your bedroom as an office, entertainment room or workroom. Help your body recognize your bedroom is for sleep.
•Exercise regularly but avoid rigorous activity at least 2 hours before bedtime.
•Avoid consumption of alcohol which many feel helps them to fall asleep. It may help you fall asleep initially but as the alcohol levels in your body drop, it can have a stimulating effect.
•Avoid caffeinated beverages 4 hours before bedtime. Products like coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks can be high in caffeine so be aware.

Deb Del Vecchio-Scully is a counselor and writer who focuses on healing the mind, body and spirit. She specializes in PTSD, Chronic pain and mood disorders. For more information:

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