It is way past your bedtime. Your body is exhausted but your mind is still ticking away. You’re tossing and turning but you can’t seem to sleep.
Or you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night or waking up too early, though you’re still tired.
If this happens for a few days or up to a few weeks, you’ve got short-term or transient insomnia. If it goes on for most nights for more than a month, it’s considered chronic insomnia.
Chronic insomnia means whatever deep-seated fears you have or issues you are not dealing with in your waking hours are affecting you in your sleep.
Not being able to sleep is a sign you’re not at peace
Sometimes, they’re so deeply rooted, you are unaware of them but not being able to sleep night after night, gives you a clear sign that you are not at peace with yourself.
One such case is a girl who is really attractive but who was always teased about the fact that she never dated anyone.
No one knew her tragic story but when people found out what happened to her and her boyfriend, it was the last time anyone ever teased her again.
One night, she had a heated argument with him. He drove off in a temper and was killed in a car accident that night.
To make matters worse, she later received a small box from one of his family members. It turned out he had purchased an engagement ring for her just days before his death.
Tragic life experiences can affect your sleep
She started having sleepless nights, imagining the life they could have had together and the “what-ifs” had they not argued that fateful night.
Six years later, she was still having sleepless nights and was diagnosed with chronic insomnia.
In a counselling session, it hit home when she was told: “I’m sure you’ve tried everything possible to sleep at night and it hasn’t worked.
All you have to do is something no one can give you medicine for. You have to forgive yourself.”
Slowly but surely, she started letting go of the guilt of her boyfriend’s death and coming to terms with it. Peaceful sleep eventually found its way back into her life.
Stress, financial worries and anxious thoughts are common triggers
Lack of sleep is not characterised just by major events or traumas. Things like work stress, financial worries and anxious thoughts can trigger off short-term insomnia and affect your ability to focus at work.
According to the Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health, a study on Malaysians between the ages of 30 to 70 shows that a staggering 33% have symptoms of insomnia, similar to global statistics.
In the United States, at least 70 million people are suffering from sleep problems.
On the home front, it is important for us to bear in mind that a tired workforce is a less productive one.
If bosses are increasing your workload, and you are putting in longer hours, it does not necessarily mean better work is produced.
You are not a machine and cannot be expected to produce work, especially creative work, like a factory without rest.
When you’re stressed and overworked and surviving on lack of sleep, your creative juices might dry up and you’re actually better off stopping for a while just to recharge your batteries before resuming work.
It doesn’t even need to be for a whole day. Think along the lines of quality rather than quantity.
Even five minutes of deep breathing at your desk can clear your mind and calm your thoughts down.
In fact, in an insomnia programme conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Illinois, those practising a form of meditation called Kriya yoga in the daytime, have actually increased their sleep time at night in just two months.
It is the reason why OhanaJo teaches breathing techniques for greater mindfulness and relaxation.
The health benefits of meditation are tremendous
There are many ancient secrets to vitality and wellbeing linked to the breath. The health benefits of meditation are simply too long to list.
Meditation slows down your breathing and heart rate, and activates the body’s natural relaxation response.
This helps to interrupt the constant fight or flight mode a person who is suffering from chronic stress might be triggering.
Sleep problems are not to be taken lightly. Not only do they affect your physical and mental health, they even affect road safety.
Not getting enough rest means you are going through life in a bit of a daze without sufficient alertness or energy.
Many accidents are linked to sleep deprivation
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, one in every five serious motor vehicle injuries is related to driver fatigue.
An alarming 80,000 drivers fall asleep behind the wheel every day and 250,000 accidents every year are related to sleep difficulties.
Prof Jim Horne, one of the foremost sleep researchers in the world, says: “The test of insufficient sleep is whether you are sleepy in the day or if you remain alert through most of the day.”
If you have trouble sleeping at night, here’s what may be of help. Do not use your bedroom like an office.
Ideally, you should be associating your bed only with sleep rather than any stressful triggers.
How to avoid stress triggers
Avoid using your phone, taking calls, doing work in bed or even watching television because just like cigarettes, these are stimulants.
If you feel you must watch some television, do it in another room. Your bedroom should be associated only with rest…a place to unwind and completely relax.
Try to review a few things that made you feel grateful throughout the day to get into a positive mindset.
It’s vital to create the right atmosphere and safe space for yourself at bedtime so you can disconnect from the world and all its demands on you.
Avoid caffeine at night because it can stay in your system for several hours.
Don’t nap in the daytime or consume a heavy meal with alcohol before you sleep because it will only make it harder to fall asleep.
Last but not least, remember that the mind that keeps you awake at night is the same mind that can put you to sleep. Keep your thoughts peaceful and positive at bedtime.
Jojo Struys is a regional TV host, speaker & wellness personality. She is also the founder of OhanaJo Studio, which is Malaysia’s largest yoga & sound healing space.