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Can’t sleep

Hi Sam,

this has been happening for at least a year now, but I‘ve been struggling to sleep when i go to bed every night. It takes me at least an hour (sometimes longer) before i can fall asleep and, even when i do go to sleep, i continue to wake up at random points in the middle of the night. Sometimes i also have strange dreamd that have nothing to do with my thoughts, or sometimes they are nightmares about everything i’m trying to cope with (i have depression). I also think i sometimes get sleep paralysis where i wake up in the morning and it feels like i am awake but i can’t move or speak at all, and it’s quite a scary thing to experience and it happens so often that once i’ve woken up and experienced it, i’m afraid to go back to sleep as it may happen again.

I had a recent CAMHS appointment and I mentioned not beint able to sleep and they recommended ways to try to be able to stay asleep but nothing is working and i still find it hard to fall asleep at night. I’m also constantly tired during the day and I think it is related? I don’t know if this is something serious or not.

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Sam

Hi there,

There are lots of things that can make it difficult to sleep like stress, depression and some types of medication. You might find it hard to get to sleep, wake up early in the morning or struggle to get back to sleep if you wake in the night. Whatever sleep problems you’re having, there are things you can do right now that can help.

It’s normal to become more and more anxious the longer it’s taking you to sleep. Try to take a few slow breaths and concentrate on your breathing before you sleep. This can help you to feel more relaxed and prepare for a good night’s sleep.

If you find there’s a lot on your mind, try writing things down before going to bed. You could write a journal to offload your feelings or write a list of things you need to do tomorrow so that you don’t have to keep thinking about them.

Try to spend 10 minutes doing something relaxing like reading, gentle exercise or listening to music before going to bed. It’s all about helping yourself to feel calm so that your  thoughts slow down a little.

Turning off any phones and tablets at least an hour before bedtime and then leaving them outside your room overnight can help. Feeling like you need to keep checking your phone or reading with the bright backlight can stop you falling asleep.

Having a routine is useful as well. Try going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time every morning for 2 weeks so your body starts to recognise when it’s bedtime.

Nightmares and dreams can sometimes feel scary and make it hard to go back to sleep. You can get advice and support from your doctor if your dreams are becoming a problem or if you think you might have a sleep disorder. If your sleep patterns have got worse since you started or finished taking any medication, or changed your dose, it’s best to check this out with your doctor too.

Remember, it can take time to make changes and develop new habits and you might not feel better straight away. Try to stick with it and you should start to see the benefits in a few weeks.

I hope this advice has helped. Thanks for your letter.

Remember, our counsellors are always here for you if you need someone to talk to.

Take care,

Sam

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