Dealing with Sleep Disorders: Find a Therapist in London
We spend around a third of our lives sleeping. Not only does this simple act of rest help recharge our batteries, but it has several important biological effects on the body such as regulating the hunger hormone ghrelin, producing growth hormone and boosting our immune system.
It’s estimated that about 1.5 million people in the UK (source: BBC News) suffer from a condition such as sleep apnoea and many more have disrupted sleep patterns from problems including work stress and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
What Are Sleep Disorders?
Most of us have trouble getting a good night’s sleep at some point. This might be down to worries at work or in everyday life with the family or friends, challenges such as paying the bills or coping with a bereavement. Poor sleep can also be caused by illness even because our normal routine has been disrupted.
It’s when a loss of sleep becomes a regular experience that it is likely to be classed as a sleep disorder.
- Insomnia, for example, is the inability to get to sleep at all and can be caused by bad habits, drinking too much caffeine before bed or being stressed out by work.
- Sleep apnoea is a condition where you suddenly stop breathing for a short while, and that disrupts your rest.
- Narcolepsy means you are overtired during the day and tend to drop off to sleep at inappropriate moments.
Treatment for any sleep disorder will vary depending on the cause and the type of problem an individual is facing. In some cases, therapies such as CBT, EMDR and mindfulness can undoubtedly help.
At the Positive Mind Practice in London, we offer these non-medicinal approaches to help with sleep problems.
Using CBT for Sleep Disorders
Cognitive behaviour therapy or CBT is used to treat a variety of mental health and behavioural issues and has a strong body of evidence supporting it.
At its heart, CBT is about exploring what causes your sleep disorder and how practical changes in thought and behaviour can make a big difference.
Working with a qualified therapist, you will explore areas that contribute to your poor sleep patterns. This might, for example, look at creating the right conditions for a good night’s sleep, such as going to bed at the same time every evening or avoiding stimulants like caffeine. You may have a weight issue that contributes to poor sleep, or you might want to reduce your alcohol intake, all of which can be addressed with the right plan of action.
All these are relatively simple strategies to implement. However, you may well have negative thoughts or feeling that contribute to your sleeplessness in a variety of ways. This could include anxiety or depression that is caused by past events.
CBT enables you to challenge negative thoughts and find alternatives that are more realistic and positive. It is more effective than medication in treating many kinds of sleep disorder, and it’s well worth exploring the potential with a qualified therapist.
EMDR and Improving Sleep
A less well-known approach to sleep disorders is eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing or EMDR. It has proved particularly effective at treating disorders that have a traumatic event as their primary cause.
It works by using an external stimulus to aid with the processing of those traumatic events. The individual is asked to recall such an event and the therapist uses a bilateral stimulation such as getting the person to follow a finger movement with their eyes or listen to sounds alternately in each ear.
This has been shown to reduce the impact of a traumatic event and allows for better processing. What has also demonstrated in research is that EMDR causes drowsiness in some individuals. There is anecdotal and research evidence that people sleep better after using this approach.
We’ve written a more detailed article about EMDR and its therapeutic uses, as well as the research behind the approach on our blog. You can read it here.
Using Mindfulness for a Better Night’s Sleep
Another approach that has proved useful in treating a range of sleep problems is mindfulness. Research has shown that individuals with sleep issues that learn to practice mindfulness have a better chance of achieving a good night’s sleep than those who don’t.
Mindfulness is a meditative technique that gets the individual to focus on the here and now in a non-judgemental way. In a simple practice, you will focus on your breathing and avoid thinking about things in the past or present that worry you, for example, if you are stressed out at work.
This produces a relaxation response which means you are primed to fall asleep rather than let your thoughts and worries keep you awake. Mindfulness does take some work to get the hang of, but it can quickly become a lifelong practice that has a profound effect on your health and wellbeing.
Our Top Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
Therapy for sleep disorders often involves a mix of CBT, EMDR and mindfulness. It’s important to work with a therapist to find an approach that works for you. Having a set bedtime routine can make a big difference:
- Avoid taking your tech devices to bed with you. The blue light can affect your sleep response and trick your mind into staying awake.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or stimulant drinks such as coffee and tea in the evening.
- Go to bed at the same time every night. This ensures that your body is adapted to being relaxed and ready for rest once you hit the pillows.
- Try to darken your bedroom entirely as this can improve your ability to drop off quickly and stay asleep for the rest of the night.
- Make sure your bedroom is not too cold nor too warm as this can also affect your sleep.
If you have set a routine and you are still finding problems with sleep, it may be time to seek the help of a qualified therapist.
Find a Sleep Therapist in London
If you live in the London area and are looking for a CBT therapist, the team at Positive Mind Practice are here to help. We can work with you to put together a strategy to solve your sleep disorder and promote a better night’s rest.