I need help sleeping

Dear Dr Gray,
I have a sleep problem. I can usually get to sleep without too much trouble but I then wake up a couple of hours later and find it almost impossible to get back to sleep.  Some nights I get as little as 2 hours sleep. I had some counselling sessions a few months ago and was taught some practical strategies, like not reading in bed, getting up instead of lying in bed when I can’t sleep but they didn’t make much difference. I have always been a bit of a worrier and my sleep problem is definitely worse if I am stressed. I am exhausted, please help.
Jessica (Richmond, London)

Dr Gray Replies……..

Dear Jessica,
Sleep problems are nearly always a symptom of another problem, usually an emotional/psychological one. You mention that you are a worrier so I will use this as an example. When we are anxious, one or all of our basic functions (i.e. appetite, sleep and sex drive) are disrupted; anxiety is our body’s response to perceived danger, when we are in danger our chances of survival greatly improve if we don’t take time out for a nap. The advice that you received in your previous counselling sessions is a necessary part of any therapy programme for a sleep problem (as you are probably aware the strategies you were taught are called ‘sleep hygiene’) but on their own they are not sufficient to resolve a sleep problem. Without identifying the problem that underlies your sleep problem i.e. what has lead to the perception that you are in danger and the subsequent increase in anxiety levels that are disrupting your sleep, all the practical techniques in the world won’t help you to sleep because your mind believes you are at risk (and the ‘risk’ is most likely to be an emotional/psychological unless you are living in a war zone) and so keeps your body on high alert.
I suggest that you seek the help of a psychologist trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) who will be able to identify the issue that underlies your sleep problem and help you to resolve this as well as supporting you to implement the sleep hygiene techniques. The British CBT & Counselling Service have a well established team of clinical and counselling psychologists in Richmond (London) who all specialise in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) so I would suggest getting in touch with them as soon as you can.

If you are suffering with any of the issues discussed in this article and would like to seek professional help then you may find our page about Sleep problems useful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Related Posts

post christmas depression

Christmas has made me depressed

Dear Dr Gray, I am worried that there is something wrong with me. I really didn’t enjoy Christmas, if I’m honest, I never do. I am surrounded by my family, have time off work and pretty much spend the whole time counting the days until I can return to normality. This makes me feel really depressed, everyone else is having

Read More »
Child asleep

How to give yourself a springtime sleep boost in ten steps

A good night’s sleep has positive effects for us all, but in modern times with pressurised schedules this is an aspect of our daily living which may not be prioritised. Springtime is an ideal time to kick start some new sleep habits with a view to boosting your sleep, or just trying something new. 1. If possible, avoid using electronic

Read More »
Insomnia therapy

How to Have a Better Night’s Sleep

Having trouble sleeping, either struggling to fall asleep, staying asleep and/or waking up early is very common and is usually a symptom of another problem e.g. stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem. So, if you want to sleep better over the longer term you will need to work out why you can’t sleep, maybe by speaking to your doctor or a

Read More »