Chronic insomnia NOT a ‘hopeless cause’, says Manchester therapist

Chronic insomnia is a common problem affecting the general population, but a Manchester therapist has insisted there is always a cure despite some sufferers believing it’s a ‘hopeless cause’.  

David Knight, a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist from Manchester, has dealt with many cases of people suffering with long-term cases of the sleep disorder and told MM that sufferers should never feel like they’re fighting a losing battle.

A prolonged lack of sleep can lead to poor mental health and even physical illness, but he explained that there were many methods available to help sufferers.

“Very rarely are people with insomnia never cured,” the therapist told MM.

“In extreme cases, it usually comes down to some sort of physical problem in calming them down.

“Normally you can improve someone’s sleep and we very rarely don’t here.”

Chronic insomnia can often lead to anxiety problems and depression due to increased stress that affects concentration and short-term memory.

Stress can also have a negative effect on the immune system, making sufferers more susceptible to infections such as colds and the flu.

Mr Knight explained that it was important to promote the ‘good habits’ surrounding sleep through a behavioural process known as ‘sleep hygiene’.

Sleep hygiene involves including a wind-down period before bed and puts extra emphasis on avoiding bad habits such as consuming caffeine five hours before sleep, as it remains in your bloodstream for a long period.

“Before your body goes into sleep mode, it heats up and that triggers the release in hormones that make you tired and fall asleep – having a bath or hot drink can trigger that,” Mr Knight said.

“But once you’re in bed, because your body cools down a lot when you sleep, you don’t want your room hot.

“It needs to be quite cool otherwise that can wake you up. Your room should also be in complete blackout because light simulates waking up. These are the basic things.”

Mr Knight believed that sleep hygiene merely provided the starting blocks for sufferers of mild forms of insomnia though, and that the disorder often ran much deeper than that.

He described three types of chronic insomnia sufferers including those who worry about getting enough sleep to function properly, those who have a to-do list in their head, and those who have gone through trauma such as a car crash with a recurring memory.

“Once you’ve done all the practical stuff, it’s then about solving the mental issue,” he said.

“You help people challenge their ideas, but some people feel like it’s a hopeless cause.

“I worked with someone last year who had insomnia for ten years. She’d have a good week, followed by three bad ones and was very stressed and depressed.

“But we are continually training people to switch their thoughts from worry and are mostly successful at curing the disorder.” 

You can find out more about insomnia and visit the Manchester CBT website by clicking here

Picture courtesy of Polina, with thanks.

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