By Massage Therapist James Carolan
Sleep deprivation can affect most of us at some point in our lives. The odd night we can generally cope with. It’s when sleeplessness becomes more part of our natural sleep routine than sleeping soundly – that it can start to make life a misery.
Speak to any long term insomniac and usually they will have tried most of the advised tricks – sleep hygiene, no caffeine, dark room, exercise, good diet. But still they struggle to sleep.
Is there an answer?
The sleep achilles heel!
This is a term I use with patients when they are exhausted through lack of sleep. When we try to do something deliberately, that we should be able to do automatically – it just doesn’t happen.
Instead of going to bed, relaxed and not even thinking about getting to sleep, we can instead be anxious at the thought of not sleeping! So, a vicious cycle begins.
Or, it can work the other way
Getting to sleep is not a problem. It’s when you wake up after 3 -4 hours and instead of slipping back into a relaxed slumber, the regular occurrence of waking up in the early hours, sees the mind automatically slip into neurotic mode ‘I’m awake, that’s it’ – and then you are wide awake with every thought running through your mind.
Then do take comfort in that you are not alone. A 2017 Great British Sleep Survey concluded that 74% of us are not sleeping too well. So those dark hours in the middle of the night need not be as lonely as they seem!
Is pain, discomfort or an uncomfortable bed stopping you sleeping well?
If your sleeplessness is due to a physical pain or discomfort in the lower back or neck, preventing you from finding a comfortable sleep position – it may be wise to seek the advice of your chiropractor or physiotherapist.
If it is your bed that is uncomfortable, then consider replacing your mattress. The science of mattresses has moved on enormously – this post Why choosing the right mattress is important may help.
If you are not in physical discomfort, then sleeplessness may be a psychological issue.
When sleep becomes psychological
When your thought process is that you ‘can’t sleep’ or are ‘I’m an insomniac’ – the problem can self-perpetuate.
It’s a hard thought-cycle to break. But, to break this cycle of negative thought around sleep can be the first step towards realigning your sleep pattern.
It is developing the resilience to not panic when you find yourself awake in the early hours. It is finding a relaxation technique that keeps your mind quiet and your breathing relaxed.
It is making your bedroom a place for sleep, so if you are wide awake for long, get up and do something in another room, to break the thought association that your bed means sleeplessness.
When therapeutic massage can help
To have a massage is not necessarily a luxury. In the case of insomnia it can become a necessity to help you mentally and physically relax in a way that you are not managing to do yourself.
A 24/7 world means it gets more difficult to switch off. We then feel guilty when we take quiet time out for ourselves!
Therapeutic massage uses specific massage strokes that help to bring your mind’s attention back to oneself, while also calming the nerves and inducing mental relaxation.
Patients often comment that it is only when they start to feel the effects of massage – they realize how badly they needed it.
You will feel where your areas of tension are. And how much lighter you can feel when tight, knotted areas are released. Muscle stiffness may be eased and help you to foster a more relaxed sleep position.
The feeling of your mind just drifting, easily, will leave you feeling mentally refreshed.
Therapeutic massage is not a quick fix solution to beat insomnia. But, it is something you should consider if lack of sleep is affecting your daily life.
Think of it, as the necessity you need for better well being.
Because the more naturally relaxed you become, sleep will naturally follow. We all need a helping hand now and again.
Therapeutic Massage offer – SAVE £10 – valid until 31 March 2018
The Waldegrave Clinic currently has a Massage Offer where you can save £10 against a 60 minute massage – valid until 31 March 2018. Just mention Massage Offer when you book. To book call 020 8943 2424.
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