Psychological insomnia, what is it?

Psychological insomnia, what is it?

Do not worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will bring its own concerns. Every day your headaches are enough. Saint Matthew


  • 1 What is insomnia
  • 2 Types of insomnia
  • 3 Main causes of insomnia
  • 4 What NOT to do when you suffer from insomnia
  • 5 What we can do ...

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a tremendously common disorder. Almost all of us suffer at least once in a while. Many things can cause a sleepless night. In fact, it has been shown that one in five people suffer insomnia worldwide.

Interestingly, insomnia affects women almost twice as much as men. But if in statistical studies we exclude children and adolescents, even higher figures are obtained. About 35% of adults and even 70% of those over 60 suffer from insomnia, of which 10% of the total population expresses that they suffer from severe insomnia problems. These people admit that constantly, or at least very often, they fail to fall asleep.

But what is insomnia? It is considered insomnia when there is an inability to sleep or little sleep for several consecutive days. This does not include the fact that one day, in isolation, a person could not sleep. Basically, insomnia is the individual's perception of inadequate or poor quality sleep repeatedly. Along with this symptomatology, the person suffers from various associated physical and psychic manifestations, such as headache, lack of concentration, irritability, etc., which prevents him from performing his day normally, such as going to work, school or performing his tasks on an ongoing basis. in the time.

Types of insomnia

Traditionally three types of insomnia have been described:

  • Conciliation insomnia: The person who suffers from it usually complains that he cannot fall asleep when he goes to bed, and when he does, several hours have passed since he went to bed.
  • Maintenance insomnia or multiple awakenings: In this type of insomnia the person falls asleep normally but soon after he wakes up and throughout the night he has multiple awakenings that prevent him from having a restful sleep. He usually wakes up with the feeling that he has slept enough, but look at the clock and it has only been two or three hours or less yet, he tries to fall asleep again, but this costs him a lot, getting to get it in the hours close to getting up to perform their occupations (work, study, take care of the children, home, etc.)
  • Insomnia of waking up early: In this process the person usually falls asleep easily at the beginning, but sleeps a short time waking up very early in the morning and being unable to fall asleep again. Unfortunately he has not been able to get enough rest, so during the day he will suffer from sleepiness.

Main causes of insomnia

Anxiety and worries is one of the main generators of insomnia, especially the one of conciliation and the one of waking up early, as for the insomnia of multiple awakenings, several studies have shown that they are more associated to depressive states and not so much to anxiety problems. Within the insomnia of conciliation, the main drawback is the famous rumination, to spin your head thinking about a subject repetitively, which generates great anxiety.

At the physiological level, anxiety implies an over activation of our alarm system, which obviously generates a complete inability to sleep. If our brain is giving the "danger" alarm while we decide to rest the body, we cannot pretend to fall asleep. For this reason, the first thing we must achieve is to manage our anxiety and try to calm down.

Having insomnia often leads the person to conduct behaviors during the day that worsen their disorder repeatedly. When someone does not get adequate sleep, he experiences worry, fatigue, lack of energy and concentration problems, so he can try to combat these unpleasant symptoms by drinking excessive caffeine or nicotine. Insomniacs are usually "too tired" to perform activities that require some physical and mental effort, so they try to self-regulate by napping at noon after lunch, which further reduces the chance of falling asleep at night.

Usually, one or two bad nights is usually not a problem. People see it as an isolated event and we don't give it much importance, we can think: "I will sleep tomorrow and recover from the fatigue of today".

However, when the days without sleep begin to accumulate, the insomniac becomes increasingly more and more nervous, and begins to have a behavior with which it only achieves just the opposite of what it intends: to perpetuate insomnia.

Only those who truly suffer insomnia night after night, know how desperate it can be to want to sleep and not be able to. At this point, the individual enters an irritable state in which it seems as if he had an endless hangover, does not feel lucid and does not perform enough. In addition, everything becomes a desperate vicious circle: the more you need to sleep, the more difficulty it seems you have.

What NOT to do when you suffer from insomnia

People who can't sleep make great efforts to get it., they try to relax, to concentrate on sleeping, they try to calm down with all their might but, paradoxically, they are distressed and desperate to achieve their goal. It is precisely this effort to sleep that prevents them from falling asleep. It is something similar to what happens when someone tells us to do everything possible not to think of a pink elephant, most likely the opposite will happen and we cannot stop thinking about that elephant. Similarly, if we try too hard to sleep, we will almost certainly not succeed.

At this point, the person wonders if he will be able to fall asleep once and for all, but at the same time he fears bedtime because he imagines an endless and distressing night without sleep. At that moment there are thoughts related to the consequences of lack of sleep: "I will find myself bad, tomorrow I will not be able to give up, I will be in a bad mood all day ...". The situation begins to be perceived as increasingly desperate and horrible. It is no longer seen as an isolated event, but as something that seems like it will never end. The uncertainty about when he will be able to reconcile the dream generates even more anguish and anxiety.

Like a fish that bites its tail, all these worries, anguish and discomfort caused by the same fact of not being able to sleep, further aggravate insomnia and contribute to perpetuate it. What could have been just a few bad days, can finally become a serious sleep disorder.

Of course, there comes a time when the person with insomnia begins to take measures of all kinds to try to sleep. For example, you can resort to pills or even alcohol, but unfortunately this only manages to further aggravate the problem. Pills or alcohol-induced sleep is not a natural or completely restorative dream, so it helps generate more long-term sleep problems.

And it is that the dream is something that must come naturally, without effort, when we simply get carried away by the state of tiredness of our body, we relax and spontaneously fall asleep without realizing it.

For many laps that we give to things, we will not be able to solve the issue that worries us while we desperately try to sleep, so the most advisable thing is to try to think of another completely different topic, so that we stop turning our heads, and if necessary it will be preferable to get out of bed to do another activity that distracts the mind.

What we can do ...

We can do everything possible to remove the worries and rumination of our head every time they invade us at bedtime, for example thinking about relaxing things, such as imagining that we swim peacefully in the crystal clear waters of a calm sea, that we are lying at Sun on the beach or even that we fly and see things from another point of view ... We can also fantasize, with having adventures (and why not, with other people), in exotic places, going to happy childhood memories, feeling the pleasure that this gives us. In our thinking and within our mind we are free to realize our most hidden desires, no matter what they are.

We must also know that the fact of "having to sleep at least 8 hours a day" is still a myth that is too widespread and often counterproductive. Each person is a world and sleeping less hours a day is not bad, it depends a lot on individual needs. There are some that with five or even four and a half hours of sleep are worth them and do not have daytime sleepiness nor are they fatigued.

And is that, the secret to sleep is basically stop thinking, stop worrying and ruminating. It's like entering a state in which "NOTHING MATTERS": it doesn't matter if we're sleepy or not, no matter the worries of the day, it doesn't matter if we spend the entire night without sleep, it doesn't matter if the next day we are tired, no It doesn't matter if we sleep the whole night of the pull or if on the contrary we take hours to sleep, it doesn't matter what work we have to do tomorrow or if we can do it or not. Nothing matters. If we do this, if we really achieve this and go to bed thinking that from that moment until we wake up in the morning, there is practically nothing that matters in the least, we will be much more likely to sleep.

Another strategy that usually works quite well in these cases consists precisely in do the opposite of the main objective, which is to sleep. The key is to propose to spend the whole night awake, total if we are not able to sleep, at least let's make some profit with that "wasted" time. Let's think about doing precisely everything we want to avoid: if we want to avoid staying awake, let's propose to stay up all night; If we try to avoid thinking about work problems, let's propose to spend the night thinking about work problems. You might ask yourself, what am I going to get with this, if it is not sleeping even less? But if, as often happens, the problem is not insomnia, but our excessive effort to get to sleep and not worry, then this strategy will serve precisely to solve that problem. It's like saying: "Okay, I can't sleep, if this is what is going to happen, well let it happen, I'm not going to worry about this anymore, it's what I have and I accept it"By doing this reconstruction of thought, we completely destroy one of the worst enemies of sleep: the excessive effort to try to sleep.

Finally, I would like to say that studies have revealed that The sleep cycles last about 90 minutes. Therefore, it is advisable to sleep in multiples of this figure: three hours, four thirty, six, etc. because we will get up better if the full cycle is fulfilled than if we interrupt it, even if we have not slept many hours in total. Another basic recommendation and that we have heard hundreds of times is that we must have regular habits when we go to bed and when we get up, performing this process at a few hours more or less fixed daily. It is also important not to be in bed more than the hours we need; that is, if with six hours we feel “repaired”, we are not obliged to stay in bed eight.

And remember, every road, however long, begins with a small step.