Chronic insomnia is essentially a psychological ailment in the arena of the body-mind equation. This is the reason there is no quick fix. Treatment for insomnia requires a comprehensive integrated approach often involving significant lifestyle and conceptual changes to achieve meaningful results.
While some struggle with insomnia, many people intentionally shorten their sleep-hours without realizing the full impact of their decision. You should feel rested upon waking a majority of the time. In our high stress society sleep deprivation is a leading cause for disease and primary cause for accidents. Accidents account for 1 in 5 deaths in the United States.
Sleep for Survival
Sleep is necessary for survival. Just like food, without enough of it we die. Most people find that they need eight to nine hours of sleep on a consistent basis to feel refreshed. Anyone with a substantial sleep debt is at risk for an episode of sudden and uncontrollable sleep, potentially fatal if driving.
Insufficient sleep disrupts the body’s repair process and opens the door to chronic illness, frequent colds, immune system dysfunction, fatigue, anxiety, depression, poor mental acuity and inability to cope. Events that would normally be of little concern when we are rested can become insurmountable obstacles when we are tired.
Bad Habits are Hard to Break
I rarely see children with insomnia. Adults, on the other hand, worry a lot. We worry about the future, and struggle with the past. This struggle causes the mind to be distracted and agitated resulting in insomnia. Children live in the present. People that live in the present moment experience a relaxed mind, and a relaxed mind is a prerequisite in the quest for sound sleep.
The mind never ever stops; even during sleep the mind is active and dreaming. This shows with the slow delta and theta brain wave activity that occurs during sleep. During the day faster alpha and beta brain wave patterns dominate. Since the mind never fully stops, sleep is not about stopping the mind, but about letting it become quiet, restful. All the drugs in the world; all the natural treatments in the world cannot make for restful sleep if the mind is agitated. Drugs may knock you out for a few hours, but you are hardly better off for all the side effects.
An agitated mind is not purely a 21st century phenomena. Twenty five hundred years ago Buddha, who was not the first to say this, suggested meditation as a means to quiet the distracted agitated mind.
Insomnia is Not the Problem
Insomnia is a serious consequence of what I call the rushing disease, and while problematic, it will often elude therapeutic interventions because the problem is not insomnia per say. The problem is an agitated self induced over-rushed mind. So, insomnia is not the problem; it is a side effect or a withdrawal effect of the real problem that must be clearly identified in order to sleep well: the habit(s) of rushing.
Rushing: The Worst Disease of the 21st Century
While complaints of chronic insomnia may be due to
metabolic disorders such as hyperthyroidism, what I
most often find is insomnia resulting from imbalance
of the mind. How you move through the day determines
how you move through the night. If you spend your days
rushing, with anxious worry, then this toxic mental
build-up will carry over into and through the night.
Waiting until bedtime to address your insomnia is
I state in my public talks that ‘rushing’ is the most serious disease of our times. If you are not personally afflicted with this disease, it is hard not to be impacted by it given the state of our 24-7 society. This rushing syndrome creates elevated cortisol and excitatory neurotransmitters which take 8-10 hours to breakdown, similar to taking a strong dose of amphetamines. During this time of elevated cortisol and excitatory neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, the true relaxation required for deep rejuvenating sleep is impossible. I believe that people often become addicted to the negative effects of the rushing disease; it can become a drug of choice in this workaholic desire driven society.
Always Remember the Bigger Picture (A Little Segue)
Ungrounded agitated minds make for a profitable and compliant consumer market. It is important to look beyond yourself to the nature of the society we live in when addressing insomnia. We live in a rushing society and everyone is impacted by this, some more then others in how this affects their sleep.
In the US there are those who profit from agitated minds, and wish to keep them this way as a means for profit. Tobacco companies, alcohol peddlers, Starbucks, chemical companies poisoning our food and pharmaceutical companies poisoning our medicine are examples. Here in sunny California corporate chemical enthusiasts legally spike public water supplies with sodium fluoride. It is important to remember that sodium fluoride was traditionally used to treat hyperthyroid. So when it comes to big business and their profiting from your insomnia I encourage you not to support them in any creative healthy way possible.
A Psychological Example
Psychological origins for insomnia include emotional disturbance, anxiety, depression, phobias and stress. Here’s an example of how the psychi can affect sleep.
As individuals mature and take on new responsibilities with career titles such as attorney, CEO, professor and realtor, the issue of self concept may arise. When someone who has a poor self concept takes on too much responsibility for their comfort zone three things can happen. One person may make a graceful transition of self concept to align with their new roles and enjoy continued good health; another may resist the metamorphosis into new self concept and engender failure due to the self fulfilling prophecy model. The third is the subject of concern in this newsletter.
This person learns to overcome their signals of discomfort from pushing the envelope of self concept to the limit. They persist and in time learn to compensate. They lock the discomfort of poor self concept into the closet of the unconscious mind. In time they likely will come to enjoy that which caused unease previously, such as annual reports, business meetings and multiple project deadlines. The problem is that their negative self concepts were never really addressed and still exist subconsciously. As the conditions of greater responsibility continue and multiply these negative self concepts in the unconscious also continue to get stimulated and in fact may grow in force agitating the mind. The agitated unconscious may not be a significant issue by day, however chronic underlying unresolved issues may well show with the condition of insomnia requiring earnest psychological intervention to uncover and correct.
The role of psychology on the issue of insomnia must be considered with chronic cases. Not to do so will likely result in ineffectual interventions. For readers to whom these concepts are new I hope this newsletter stimulates further exploration. For readers familiar with my thesis I hope this newsletter serves as a reminder to continue the journey toward inner peace and joy. The role of metabolism and the physical aspects of the mind-body formula for insomnia will be addressed in part two of this two part newsletter next month.
I hope you have enjoyed this month’s newsletter. Your feedback is always welcome.
Jon Dunn, ND