What's Under Your Pillow?

Somniphobia - The fear of sleeping?

Now here is something one wouldn't consider a topic of conversation for people looking for insomnia cures. After all, insomniacs are not afraid of sleep, we desperately crave it, yes?

Many people who suffer from a continual lack of sleep can develop some form of somniphobia, or the fear of sleeping. Perhaps we're not afraid of sleep in the traditional sense of the word somniphobia - but due to the dread and anxiety we know will come when it's time to sleep we can develop a fear of what will happen from our efforts. What we actually fear is the pain of anxiety and frustration from our insomnia.

What happens to most of us sleep challenged folk when it's time to turn off the lights and seek the restorative work of nature? Well, in some cases we instantly feel anxiety over the possibility of not falling asleep, and our minds race with the prescience of our inevitable coming agony. In this case we face a downward spiral of adding more and more stress to a time of day when relaxation is all we should be pursuing. Eventually this can lead to a trigger for the other conditions responsible for us not sleeping, and in some cases this fear will become the principal trigger itself.

This condition is almost omnipresent in people who suffer chronic bouts of insomnia, fearing sleeplessness that is, but some of us have deeper roots than others. It's not always a fear of sleeplessness, sometimes it actually is exactly as the word implies - a fear of sleep. Personally, under a great deal of scrutiny I came to discover that I have a distinct fear of falling unconscious from certain personal tragedies that occurred in my life during slumber. This, in turn, led to a lasting irrational and subconscious fear that if I slept bad things would happen to those I loved, and thus it came to a point when sleep wouldn't come until I was physically incapable of remaining awake. My record, as I think I've mentioned before, is 11 days with no sleep.

Others can develop this fear from the threat of past - very real dangers within their environment. One woman I studied had absolutely no capacity for sleep - due to her involvement in an earthquake years before, while she lived in Taipei, Taiwan. She lives in Ohio now, but none the less, her irrational association of sleeping coupled with a dangerous earthquake had left her completely unable to find rest. This kind of associative memory is a persistent problem, often manifesting in the form of anxiety disorder, and it does require therapy and potentially medications, to deal with the underlying causes of irrational fear. But there are things we can do to try and help ourselves.

One program that greatly helped me to relax my fear of sleeping was a sleep optimization course very similar to this one. Over a 3 CD course it can greatly dissolve the fears we develop in falling asleep and, incredibly, it does work.

To find real insomnia cures we really have to become relentless in our pursuit, diligent, and we have to recognize that which robs us of what our bodies and minds need. So if you feel you may have developed some irrational fears about sleeping, think back to any time in your life when something may have disturbed you while you slept, perhaps something that left a lasting negative effect. If you find something, write it down, make a note of it, and prepare yourself to deal with this fear in your waking hours. If you can't think of any external memory that may be responsible for a fear of sleeplessness, perhaps you have developed a propensity to worry over your sleeplessness, thus adding to your agony. In future posts we will delve into certain actions and lifestyle changes you can make to combat this problem.

Either way there may not be any magical insomnia cures, but learning about your fears and anxieties come sleep time can go a long way to allowing you some peace of mind. Sleep optimization programs will help, but long term success is dependent on knowing the root causes of your insomnia.

5 Insomnia Cures You Already Knew

The insomnia cures that most of the blissfully unaware people prescribe for us are notoriously oversimplified, comical and sometimes absolutely infuriating. The problem is that some of the more annoying things people say actually can help us with sleeplessness, but due to the gravity of our problem we tend to overlook the obvious at times. I know when my sister says "You'll sleep fine if you just stop drinking coffee" I quietly explain that "it's just not that simple", and then I go somewhere so I can beat my head against the wall in abject frustration.

For some of us though, it really is as simple as ... say... turning of the radio, or fixing the leaky pipe that drips aural madness into our ears. Yes, insomnia is a very complex problem with many far reaching causes and conditions, but in some cases it's not necessarily a complex solution. We must be very careful not to overlook what may contribute to our problem just because it seems so brain dead or simple.

The following are a few of the more elementary cures that people have likely mentioned to you at least once, and a few that you may not have known about that have proven effective in certain transient sleep disorders. My advice is that if you haven't tried the following you should, as every little bit helps.
  1. Avoid caffeine after 3 pm. This may seem ridiculously over stated but there are many products containing caffeine that we are not necessarily aware of. For example, many pain relievers contain caffeine - such as extra strength Panadol/ Tylenol. You may cure your headache at the expense of sleep. Also note that Tea can give you as much of a caffeine fix as coffee. Try to be vigilant about what you put in your body and read the ingredients when you're not sure - as you can be getting stimulants in your blood stream at the exact wrong moment, without even knowing it.
  2. Don't read, watch TV, or plan your next vacation while you're in bed. You have to develop a rule about the bed and bedroom, which is that your bedroom exists for two reasons only; sleeping and having sex. If you have a 42" Plasma and your IMac in your bedroom, get rid of them. If you have a stack of great books and magazines on your night stand, put them elsewhere. Your goal is to train your mind to do what should come natural, to trigger your body to react to your sleep location by adjusting and relaxing. Where you rest your bones has to be conducive to a good nights sleep, not a place where you can watch a movie, check your emails, or read about skydiving.
  3. Get some sunlight during the day. If you can't get sunlight, look into some form of light therapy. In future posts I will detail some light therapies known to have positive results. Getting vitamin A through sunlight is very beneficial to your body in the first place, but it has also been known to help people sleep at night. Studies show that people who don't receive enough sunlight are far more prone to sleep disorders, and it's also well known that sunlight is necessary to regulate your body's circadian rhythm.
  4. Start a journal. You may ask how this would help you sleep, but it is a powerful technique known to help certain sleep disorders. Anything worth noting is worth worrying over, and for most of us letting go of daily problems and ambitions is not that easy. Somehow by documenting our daily activity it can allow us to purge ourselves from problems that would otherwise keep us awake, obsessing to find answers.
  5. Find your Zen. There is always one scene that we can find in our minds eye that will relax us. Some of us may have a harder time figuring out what that scene is, but somewhere in the annals of time there exists a memory wherein we were completely at peace and relaxed. Once you discover what that scene is for you, practice recalling it by remembering how it smelled, what you heard, how your body temperature was, e.t.c... Sensory recall is a very powerful trigger, so use it to recall calm and restful moments.
Trying these things for a few days and giving up is not effective, as most of these techniques require a period of time for your body to adjust. However most of what is listed above is crucial to ensuring you can get a good nights rest and things that should never be taken for granted or ignored. They are not so much techniques as lifestyle adjustments, so before you run off to get your insomnia cures from a doctor or your local pub, make sure you have treated your own environment accordingly. It may be all you need to get a good nights rest.