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Self-Help for Insomnia & Sleep Deprivation

A Self-Help Workbook by Lucinda Sykes, M.D.

Chapter 1

Self-Help to Find Insomnia’s Cause & Cure


What is insomnia?

Insomnia means a person can’t get enough good quality sleep to feel rested and alert the next day.

Insomnia comes in several forms. Some people have trouble getting to asleep, but eventually they sleep soundly. Other people are able to get to sleep, but their sleep is restless or they keep waking up during the night. Still others wake up too early and then can’t get back to sleep. Each of these is a type of insomnia.

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What is the best cure for insomnia?

The best cure for insomnia is to treat the cause of insomnia. Sleep medications (“sleeping pills”) can remedy sleeplessness temporarily, but for a lasting cure, we need to deal with the cause.

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What causes insomnia?

Many factors can cause insomnia -- factors outside ourselves and factors within ourselves too. Often chronic insomnia is caused by a combination of factors. Chapters 5-16 describe the most common of these insomnia causes.

Because chronic insomnia can be caused by medical illness, people should ask their doctor to check for any medical condition that requires treatment. (See Chapter 2: The Medical Causes of Insomnia.)

However, the most common cause of insomnia is some combination of high stress levels, dietary factors, smoking & other toxins, physical inactivity, and a lack of balance in daily life.

Many of life’s problems can cause high stress levels that interfere with sleep. For example, self-defeating habits of thought or attitude can increase stress. Feelings of boredom or general dissatisfaction also raise stress levels. (See the psychological habits described in Chapters 14-16.)

Sometimes people worsen their sleep problems because they don’t understand basic facts about sleep and what’s normal or healthy for them. (See Chapter 17.)

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How can self-help cure insomnia?

The self-help way is to care for ourselves over time -- much as we might cultivate a garden, or care for the natural world in a sustainable way. By paying attention to ourselves, we learn how to support our natural ability to sleep. If we’re willing to make necessary changes, healthy sleep returns.

To solve insomnia, we first figure out why we have it. (Chronic insomnia is often caused by a combination of factors.) As we understand our insomnia, we can eliminate or lessen whatever interferes with sleep, and we can add or strengthen whatever helps sleep. In this way, we support our “sleep-wake cycle” -- the body’s biological rhythm that awakens us every morning and returns us to sleep at night.

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What’s the best way to cope with sleeplessness?

When people have trouble sleeping, they often get upset or frustrated, and try to force themselves to sleep. Usually this just makes insomnia worse.

A more helpful attitude is to look for ways to relax and relieve stress when we can’t sleep. Psychologists call this an attitude of “skillful coping” -- accepting and working with ourselves as we are, instead of fighting with ourselves and adding to our frustration.

Chapters 18-20 describe several methods for “skillful coping” with sleeplessness. This includes use of the Self-Help Meditation CD as explained in Chapter 20.

These methods can help people cope with daytime stress too. For example, our patients learn to take 3 minute stress relief breaks during the day, using some of the simple meditation practices described in Chapter 19.

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How to Use This Workbook

Check the following tips to find what’s relevant to you and your situation. Follow up with what seems most useful. (Because this is general information, you’ll find that some tips don’t apply to you.)

Sometimes one tip will be all you need for better sleep -- but if you have chronic insomnia, don’t be surprised if you have to adopt several tips over time.

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How long before I get better sleep?

Better sleep could come quickly if your insomnia is caused by a single factor that’s easy to correct. For example, you might decrease your caffeine intake today, and get better sleep tonight.

However, a lasting solution to chronic insomnia can take a while (even several months). Sometimes people need time to figure out all the factors causing their insomnia. It can also take them time to change things (especially personality habits). As well, the body’s sleep-wake cycle can take several weeks to readjust to a healthier rhythm.

The good news is that patients often say they learn a lot about themselves while solving their insomnia. They report new insights and lifestyle change that is personally rewarding.

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  Next Chapter

Note: This workbook of “Better Sleep Tips” is included with purchase of the Sleep Meditation CD.

Chapter Selection -> 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8-20   Sleep Meditation CD

sleep meditation cd
  • a self-help CD for people who have trouble sleeping
  • easy to follow even if you’ve never meditated before
  • helps occasional and chronic sleeplessness
  • listen to a sample audio clip

CAUTION:“Self Help for Insomnia” is an educational site about adult insomnia & sleep deprivation. This site is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. The site provides general information that might not apply to your particular sleep problem.

If you have chronic trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. Discuss this site’s information & CD with your doctor to decide what’s appropriate for you.

Be sure to read Chapter 2: Sleep Disorders & Other Medical Causes of Lack of Sleep.

Copyright ©2007 Lucinda Sykes
Permission granted for personal, non-commercial use
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