'Sleep problems made me anxious'

Jane hadn't slept for three successive nights, and was becoming desperate.

No sleep for days on end had become a habit for her. Usually, by day three, Jane's body was so exhausted she would fall asleep, but not this time.

She nudged her boyfriend to see if he was awake. Jane had lost all hope. The herbal teas and the pills weren’t working any more.

"He jokingly offered to knock me out. I remember thinking that wouldn't be such a bad idea," she says.

A lifelong insomniac

Jane has suffered from insomnia since the age of six. It runs in her family, and she believes it's partly due to moving around a lot when she was young.

"My main problem is anxiety around sleep, not sleep itself," says Jane. "I worry about not falling asleep.

"It's really annoying not being able to drop off when the person lying next to you is sleeping soundly. I'm usually wide awake and alert."

Noise, pressure at work and personal problems are the main factors that have disrupted Jane's sleep throughout her life.

'Going days without sleep feels similar to having a hangover.'


The vicious cycle of insomnia

About 30% of the UK population suffers from sleep disorders. Women are affected more than men.

Dr Chris Idzikowski, of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, says that people with insomnia often worry about their sleep. "They worry about the consequences of not falling asleep," he says. "This worrying turns into a vicious circle: the more you worry, the less you sleep." 

Dr Idzikowski says that breaking this cycle of anxiety about sleep is an important part of treating insomnia. "I tell my patients to focus on letting go of being awake rather than focusing on falling sleep," he says.

Jane says that going days without sleep feels similar to having a hangover. "It's horrible,” she says. “I would go through the motions. I was operating on nervous energy. I wouldn't feel sleepy. Your only desire is to get through the day."

She initially relied on over-the-counter remedies, such as Nytol, antihistamines and the herbal remedy Valerian. She has since tried to break her reliance on medication for sleep, and has been trying long-term solutions.

Jane turned to hypnotherapy audio books, which have given her some satisfaction. The hypnotherapy CDs work by relaxing the listener with a carefully narrated script, gentle hypnotic music and sound effects.

Once a listener is in a relaxed state, they're given hypnotic suggestions, such as "as soon as your head touches the pillow at night you will feel sleepy".

If used regularly, certain phrases like "I feel safe and secure at night" and "I continue to sleep well at night" may become cues to help the listener relax more deeply.

Jane is positive about the results of her hypnotherapy CD. “The major change is how I react to being woken up. I wake up but I don't have all the anxiety, anger or tension that I used to feel.

“I just go back to sleep again. That's unheard of for me."

Page last reviewed: 10/07/2014

Next review due: 10/07/2016


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The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

nessnine said on 13 May 2015

Please could you share a link to the hypnosis CD you used? I've been suffering insomnia for 9 years. I haven't slept more than 3-5 hours in the last 6 months. I'm taking zolpidem but they don't keep me asleep for very long.

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jamesnimmo90 said on 06 April 2015

I also find, unlike another person who's commented here, that Zopiclone works. Although my doctor is reluctant to subscribe it, and has only prescribed it with a maximum of 5 tablets. At my own risk though I have borrowed some from a relative who regularly has to take them and they work a treat. Although these work for me, it doesn't work for everyone. But it depends on you, your thoughts about taking them and whether you believe they will work or not. Usual amount is 1.75mg (1 tablet) but after a while I found I needed 2 for it to work. These give you an extremely dry mouth the next morning and will need to take water to bed with you as well as everything you eat before lunch time tastes funny.

I think from here though in the long term I will have to be a bit more self disciplined with sleep, attempt a new bedtime ritual, make a sleep diary, try breathing techniques, hypnosis CDs, start exercising more and possibly try yoga or similar.

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Dal007 said on 22 February 2012

Hello all, I am currently suffering with insomnia and have had it now for just over 8wks. I have slept a total of about 11 hrs in that time. I am not stressed about anything at all work, home or personal. I try and keep fit and exercise nearly every day, keep off tea,coffe & alcohol in the evenings and still I go to bed, lay there and then get up. I have tried nearly everything to try and solve this but to no avail.I have been to the doctors who prescirbed me Zopiclone which havent done a thing. (I had another sleep problem over a year ago, had the same tablets and they didnt work at all. I have had blood tests and all seem fine. Like Jane from the 1st article, I too am exhausted and feel like i have a hangover all day and have since been off work because I cannot drive or concentrate on anything. I am running out of ideas fast and sinking. I really need some help but the doctors dont seem to be offering me anything except tablets. I would like to point out that up to the point of not sleeping last year,my diet and exercise regieme was much poorer than now but I slept just fine with no issues. I lok forward to any help, ideas or suggestions as I really need some help with this situation. thanks.

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Seacow said on 13 March 2010

I had trouble sleeping as a child and teenager, and then once I had children my sleep was frequently interrupted by them. I started to suffer from depression and found some antidepressants made me dopey all the time, which I hated. I changed to ones that would help me get through the day but they seem to make it impossible to sleep well at night. I went 40 hours without sleep the other week - when you have to hold down a job and look after home and family on an average of 2 hours sleep per night, it's so depressing and exhausting. I wish there were more and better sleep clinics to help people with long term insomnia.

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peaches84 said on 11 October 2009

I am also a sufferer of insomnia, especially when I get stressed. I have now been up for 2 days, and I feel dreadful and STILL unable to fall asleep as I feel so anxious. Where did you get these tapes from?

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Moodzone: Sleep problems

Dr Chris Williams explains what you can do to give yourself the best chance of a good night's sleep. This podcast is one of an eight-part series for Moodzone.

Media last reviewed: 02/03/2015

Next review due: 02/03/2017

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