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Insomnia: Symptoms and Treatment

To be unable to sleep is one of life’s worst experiences. Insomnia not only affects your night-time, through disrupted and unsatisfactory sleep, but it has consequences in terms of your quality of life.

People with persistent sleep problems often complain of being slowed down or moody during the day. What is more, they are not the only ones who suffer. Broken sleep can affect partners, children, and our social and working life.

Why do we need to sleep?

Sleep is not an optional extra in life; it is a fundamental requirement. In fact, you could survive for three times as long without food as you could without sleep. When people are sleep deprived they are not able to function properly during the day. During sleep, tired muscles recover and new proteins are synthesised, but perhaps more importantly our brain undergoes significant rest and repair.

Symptoms of sleep loss include:

  • Struggling to get to sleep at night
  • Having regular disturbed sleep
  • Often lying awake at night
  • Not being able to get back to sleep once you have woken up
  • Still feeling tired after waking up
  • Finding it difficult to take naps during the day, despite being tired
  • Feeling tired and irritable
  • Feeling your concentration is lacking due to loss of sleep

How much sleep you need

The amount of sleep a person requires varies from person to person.

On average adults, children and babies need the following amounts of sleep.

  • toddlers and babies – 12 to 17 hours
  • children – 9 to 13 hours
  • adults – 7 to 9 hours

If your tired during the day then you probably don’t get enough sleep.

Causes of insomnia

The most common causes of insomnia are:

  • stress, anxiety or depression
  • worry
  • too hot or cold a room
  • beds that are uncomfortable
  • noise
  • irregular work shifts
  • coffee, alcohol or nicotine
  • drugs like ecstasy or cocaine
  • jet lag 

Self-treatment for insomnia

Insomnia usually gets better by changing your sleeping habits.


  • Relax at least 1 hour before bed – for example, take a bath or read a book
  • Exercise regularly during the day
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – only go to bed when you feel tired
  • Make sure your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet – use thick curtains, blinds, an eye mask or ear plugs


  • Eat a big meal late at night
  • Nap during the day
  • Smoke, or drink alcohol, tea or coffee at least 6 hours before going to bed
  • Drive when you feel sleepy
  • Watch television or use devices right before going to bed – the bright light makes you more awake
  • Exercise at least 4 hours before bed
  • Sleep in after a bad night's sleep – stick to your regular sleeping hours instead

How Therapy Can Help

There are a number of different therapies that work well for insomnia including mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy (cbt).

If stress, anxiety, worry, depression or other common problems are causing or contributing to your insomnia then therapy will help you address those issues.

To address you sleeping problems directly it maybe worth keeping a sleep diary, establish new habits and before bed rituals and look at some of the tools and techniques that help people clam a racing mind.
A standard sleep program should take about 6 weeks.

The below is a sample exercise that may help you to put the day at rest. Working with your therapist you should undertake similar exercises.

Putting the Day to Rest

This exercise will not work for everyone and needs to completed in conjunction with the other do’s and don’t mentioned above. Your therapist should also give you other exercises to complete.

Mindfulness has been found to be useful for helping to stop over worry and a racing mind, it may be worth a try.

  1. Set aside 20 minutes in the early evening, the same time every night if possible (say around 7 p.m.)
  2. Sit down somewhere you are not going to be disturbed.
  3. All you need is a notebook, your diary, and a pen.
  4. Think of what has happened during the day, how events have gone, and how you feel about the kind of day it has been.
  5. Write down some of the main points. Put them to rest by committing them to paper. Write down what you feel good about and what you feel troubles you.
  6. Write down anything you think you need to do on a to do list with steps you can take to tie up any loose end or unfinished business.
  7. Now think about tomorrow and what is coming up. Consider things you are looking forward to as well as things that are causing you worry.
  8. Write down your schedule in your diary.
  9. Write down anything you are unsure about and make a note in your diary of the time you will find out about that the next day.
  10. Try to use your 20 minutes to help you feel in control. Close the book on the day.
  11. When it comes to bedtime, remind yourself that you have already dealt with all these things if they come to your mind.
  12. If new thoughts come up in bed, note them down on a piece of paper at your bedside to be dealt with the following morning.

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Here at Mental Wellness Counselling we use a number of different approaches to help people overcome their insomnia all tailored to your individual requirements. These include mindfulness, sleep hygiene and habits, cognitive behaviour therapy (cbt), and exploration of any contributing factors to your insomnia. We have an excellent success rate 

Reach out to schedule your first appointment. During your first session, you can share a bit about what's troubling you and I can answer any questions you might have. We'll discuss your goals and my approach and assess whether we are the right fit for each other. To schedule your first appointment, call ​01733 639 040 email I'm here for you.