In today’s fast paced world we’re always looking for a quick fix. Got a headache? You can get a pill for that. Need some energy? Knock back an energy drink. The same is true for when you’re wondering how to get to sleep.
Reaching for sleeping pills is the first resort for many. In fact, an article in The Guardian on Britain’s hidden addiction to sleeping pills has highlighted some shocking statistics. Ten percent of people now take medication for insomnia, which amounts to 15.3 million prescriptions every year costing the NHS £50 million per year in sleeping pills. What’s worse is that there has been a ten percent rise in people asking their doctor to ‘help me sleep’ and then knocking back some tablets.
The sharp rise over the last four years coincides with when the recession hits, and suggests that stress and money worries could be the psychological triggers behind people’s insomnia. But is medication the best way forward?
Addressing anxious thoughts can help sooth the soul and help the brain drift to sleep
While beneficial for people with chronic insomnia, a genetic condition or struggling through a brief period (such as a bereavement), sleeping pills can have some worrying side effects. People can form a dependency, believing they can’t sleep without them, they can have more accidents from feeling drowsy the next day and they certainly arent cheap.
It’s been suggested by a leading sleep specialist – Kevin Morgan, professor of gerontology at the University of Loughborough – that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might be a more practical solution for many people suffering from insomnia and wondering how to get to sleep at night. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that teaches people to challenge the irrational and negative thought processes that are causing problems in their life, and is a highly effective method of treating mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
With many people’s insomnia caused by anxiety or stress it makes sense that teaching people to address the underlying problems or thoughts causing their insomnia can be a more practical approach than simply popping a pill to paper over the cracks. The Department of Health in the UK is due to assign £400 million over the next four years to this type of talking theory, so it’s clear that the benefits are real and proven.
Combined with sleep hygiene practices
As always, the first step in tackling insomnia is to assess whether your habits are getting in the way of getting a good night’s sleep. This means adopting sleep hygiene practices to eliminate all the stimuli that could be keeping you awake at night wondering ‘how can I get to sleep?’
This includes avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine and alcohol, before you go to bed. While alcohol can help you fall asleep in can prevent you reaching a deep rejuvenating level you need for your body to rest and recuperate. Other habits to avoid are watching TV or sitting in bed working on your laptop late at night.
To help put your mind in a relaxed mood, there are also natural remedies you can try, such as chamomile tea, bananas or a warm glass of milk to help you drift off to the land of nod without the use of medication.