Category Archives: #Insomnia

On getting rid of negative thoughts …

A depressed young man sat down next to the grey-haired, stooped figure of his elderly grandfather.

Why are you looking so sad and sorrowful?” the old man asked.

Grandpa, I feel like I can’t find any rest, day or night. I feel utterly useless; that I’m a disappointment to all the people I once loved. I feel like I’ve messed up my whole life. When I’m around other people, I make them feel sad. I doubt if there’s anyone out there that still loves me,” the young man explained. It’s as if my conscience is constantly accusing me of being useless and disappointing my parents and friends.”

The grandpa sat quite still for some time, pondering over his grandson’s dilemma, stroking his grey beard and deeply in thought.

You must learn to correctly identify the voices talking to you and accusing you” the old man gently whispered.

Let me tell you an age-old tale; a story that was carried on from one decade to the next one, as a story told by the wise old men from the tribe, to the children when the nights are cold and they huddle together around a small cooking fire,” he continued …

There was an old man who felt sad and useless; the love of his life could not give him a son for future generations. She remained barren despite the two of them trying everything they knew of, to conceive. They also fervently prayed for a miracle.

In total despair his wife told him, “Please take my slave girl for yourself; take her to bed and let her conceive your child. Her child will be my child, as our ancient customs dictate, under such circumstances.

The slave girl fell pregnant and gave birth to a son. But the she didn’t react subserviently as the custom dictates. She believed she was superior to her barren mistress, and mocked her. The mistress was deeply hurt, and got very angry. She banished the haughty slave girl, sending her into the desert. An Angel appeared to her and urged her to go back and to submit.

Years later the mistress fell pregnant as well; this was nothing short of a miracle. When her young son reached the age of about four, the family had a weaning festival as tradition required.

There were already hard feelings between the banished slave girl who had borne the husband’s first child, and her mistress; and this negative feeling spilled over into the older son’s attitude. He started mocking his younger (half) brother incessantly, and never let up.

Eventually the younger son was ready to explode with frustration. He ran to his mom and said, “My older brother keeps on belittling me in front of all the visitors, he keeps on mocking me, please help me,” he cried. “I can’t take it anymore!”

The old man’s love of his youth ran to him pleading, “Please tell your older son and his mother to leave us! Their attitudes are absolutely uncalled for! They’re turning our son’s life into a misery!”

The old man looked at her with astonishment. “You know I can’t do that! She is my wife by law! You told her I should take her and conceive a child with her! Her son is my own son … in fact, according to tradition he is your son, and I can’t send them away into the desert!”

This explanation did nothing to placate his real wife. She kept nagging and nagging as only a woman could do. “Send them away! Send them away! Tell them to go!”

When he couldn’t stand it any longer, in total despair he relented. “Alright then! If you keep on, and on, and on, pressurising me to send them away, why don’t we go and pray and ask God what we should do. Then you will hear God telling us that I can’t send them away; they are my family according to our tradition, and I have a legal responsibility towards them.”

So they went to a quiet place to seek God’s presence and to pray.


It can’t be true, we must be mistaken, listen what God is saying” the old man cried. “God said, ‘Send them away, the son of this slave girl may not inherit anything from all your riches! There is not enough for both of them; only your real wife’s son may inherit.’ “

But Grandpa, what are you trying to tell me through this age old story?” the depressed grandson was confused. What is the connection between this story and my terrible fight with my conscience accusing me?”


The slave girl and her son represent laws made by men to live by. According to the teachers of that era 2000 years ago, living by certain rules was the only way to attain inner peace and peace with God,” the grandpa goes on to explain.

But these man-made rules are harsh and almost impossible to adhere to. Consequently, it is almost impossible to achieve that sought-after peace of mind, and peace with God.”

The younger son, borne years later by the old man’s first love, symbolises something totally different,” he continues. “The last-born son stands for the fact that we can resist the accusations brought on us by man-made traditions (the older son, whom the slave girl gave birth to). We have the assurance that God allows us … wait, no; he actually orders us, to send that ‘older son’ and his accusations packing! He gives us freedom. He sets us free from all the mockery of the ‘older son’.”

The grandpa turns to his grandson. “You see, this ‘son’ and his mockery of you, is pretending to be your conscience. He wants you to believe that it is your conscience that accuses you of not being good enough; of being a failure. Of being someone you should be ashamed of being. But this is not true. This ancient fable reveals what God wants you to do when you’re faced with all these inner accusations and self-doubt: ‘SEND THEM AWAY! BANISH THEM!’ It’s not your conscience condemning you. It’s man-made rules and traditions that condemn you and bring you down!”

The younger son of the old man’s first love, represents the freedom that God gives us. There is not enough energy in you to listen to both these voices, they will totally and utterly exhaust you. Distinguish which one is the voice of the evil one. The one who pretends to be your conscience. Chase him away tell him to keep quiet! Tell him that God gave you a new direction… to not listen to that voice, to banish him! Turn around. Listen to the other voice, telling you that the accusations are false … telling you that you are free, that you have endless value in God’s eyes, and that is all that really matters.”

Ponder on this, my boy. It’s not your conscience accusing you, it is the evil who pretends to be your conscience. Send him away with the authority that God gives you. Instead listen to the other voice telling you how precious you are to God, and how much he values you, and that is all that matters. There is nothing of any higher value than God’s evaluation of you. Believe that. Keep telling yourself that, and you will be free!”

The young man rose from his grandpa’s porch chair, and straightened up for the first time in a long time. For the first time in many months, he had hope in his eyes. Against all odds, he decided to listen to the wise old man. To shut out the negative accusations. To embrace the freedom that was his; and by God’s grace, to live life seeing God’s worth of him.


Author’s note: This article was inspired by Dr Caroline Leaf, author of ‘The Perfect You’. In her book, she explains that the thinking of toxic thoughts can change gene expression in just the same way that exposure to chemicals and pollution does. Our DNA is developed to react to the language of our thoughts and the words following these thoughts. Recent neuro-scientific studies have shown that oxytocin, secreted by the brain, can literally ‘melt away’ negative thought bundles, thereby facilitating the ‘re-wiring’ of new non-toxic pathways. Dopamine works with the oxytocin to achieve this melting down of the negative thought bundles. We know that endorphin release makes us feel good, and also helps to ‘detox’ the brain. When we do good things, and when we reach out to others in love, endorphins are released, making us feel better. Broadly speaking, these findings collectively communicate the fact that our mind influences our brain. I encourage you to read this profound author’s work.


Author: Caroline Leaf

Year published: 2017

Book title: The perfect you

Publisher: Grand Rapids Division of Baker Publishing Company


Having sufficient restful sleep is a critical human requirement. It is vital to emotional and physical well being. Most adults sleep between 6 and 8 hours per day, without interruption. A few nights of poor sleep do no harm, but prolonged sleep disturbances can have serious consequences.

The Physiology of Sleep

People function according to a natural cycle that repeats itself about every 24 hours. This is known as the circadian rhythm, and it governs our sleep-wake cycles. As it gets dark, the cells in the retina of the eye send a message directly to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which then signals the pineal gland located in the hypothalamus to produce the hormone melatonin, which causes a drop in body temperature and sleepiness. At the same time there is a reduction in the chemicals responsible for arousal, like histamine, noradrenalin, and serotonin. In a normal person, this sequence brings on sleep. There are two types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and nonrapid eye movement (NREM). NREM has four stages, with stage 1 being transitional sleep, stage 2 light sleep and stages 3 and 4 deep (delta) sleep. Delta sleep is the most restful kind. During NREM sleep, brain activity and body functions slow. During REM there is increased activity – body functions speed up and a person dreams. A person moves from one phase of sleep to another during the night.


What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleeping problem in which there is either inadequate sleeping time, or poor quality sleep, occurring on a regular or frequent basis, often for no apparent reason. A person with insomnia may have difficulty falling asleep, may wake up too early, wake up intermittently during the night, or may wake feeling unrefreshed.

During the day a person with insomnia may suffer from general tiredness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Sleep deprivation also impairs memory, reaction time and alertness. Tired people are less productive at work, less patient with others, and less interactive in relationships. Sleep deprivation can also be dangerous for people who have to drive. When people are deprived of sleep over long periods, the body’s immune system becomes depressed, lowering resistance to disease and infections.

Insomnia is very common – between 20% and 30% of adults suffer insomnia to some degree, and about 10% to 15% of people have insomnia which is chronic or severe. Insomnia is more of a problem in the elderly, and is more common in women. Sleeping pills are amongst the most prescribed medicines in the world.

Types of Insomnia

Transient insomnia is a temporary disturbance of the normal sleep pattern. It generally lasts no more than several nights, and usually disappears on returning to a regular sleep pattern. Travel or relocation may cause it.

Short-term insomnia lasts for 2 – 3 weeks and can accompany worry or stress. It often disappears if the cause is resolved.

Chronic insomnia disrupts sleep for extended periods of time – sleeping problems occur for at least 3 nights a week for one month or more. It is a complicated disorder with potentially serious effects.

What causes Insomnia?

Insomnia is usually the result of an underlying condition. Discovering the cause is the most important step in relieving insomnia.

Lifestyle factors are common causes of insomnia, particularly transient or short term insomnia. These include factors like high stress or anxiety, an uncomfortable sleeping environment, eating a heavy meal or drinking alcohol or caffeine-containing drinks before bedtime, exercising just before bedtime and cigarette smoking.

Medical conditions may cause chronic insomnia. These include chronic illnesses like kidney disease, heart failure or asthma, painful illnesses like arthritis or cancer, and hormone imbalances like hyperthyroidism, menopause or pregnancy.

Psychiatric conditions like depression, anxiety disorders or schizophrenia may be associated with chronic insomnia.

Medications are a common cause of insomnia. Some antidepressants, high blood pressure and steroid medications can interfere with sleep. Many painkillers, decongestants and weight loss products contain caffeine and other stimulants which will keep a person awake. Reducing or stopping your regular dose of sleeping pills may also cause insomnia.

Certain sleep disorders may result in insomnia. Restless leg syndrome is a condition where a person experiences unpleasant sensations in the legs or feet, preventing sleep. Periodic limb movement disorder is where uncontrollable twitching of the legs or arms prevent refreshing sleep. Obstructive sleep apnoea is a condition in which people intermittently stop breathing for short periods during sleep, causing them to wake frequently. Circadian rhythm disorders develop due to time zone changes (jet lag), or in people who do shift work.

Psycho Physiological Insomnia is one of the commonest causes of insomnia affecting about 5% of people. It develops when a person experiences a poor night’s sleep and then has increased anxiety the next night, which again prevents him from falling asleep. This “vicious cycle” is repeated night after night, leading to chronic insomnia.

How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?

The many potential causes of insomnia mentioned above can be determined by assessing lifestyle factors, by reviewing physical or psychiatric symptoms and by performing a physical examination. Certain laboratory tests and special investigations may be necessary. A sleep diary, which provides a record of how long and when you sleep, may also be helpful. In some patients an assessment at a sleep clinic may be necessary.

Treatment of Insomnia

Chronic or severe insomnia should be discussed with a doctor to rule out any medical or psychiatric condition.

Lifestyle changes: Regular moderate exercise, a balanced diet and avoiding excessive alcohol or caffeine will improve health and sleep. Reduce tension, promoting better sleep.

Behavioural therapies may also be used to treat some patients with insomnia. Relaxation therapy uses special techniques to calm the person and relax the muscles. Sleep restriction is a program that initially permits only a few hours of sleep per night, then gradually increases the nightly sleeping time. Reconditioning teaches the person to associate a bed with sleeping (and sexual activity), not daytime naps.

Drug treatment: If insomnia is transient or short-term, and sleep hygiene (see below) or non-medical treatments are not helpful, medication may be effective to prevent psycho physiological insomnia. In chronic insomnia, it is important to diagnose any underlying medical or psychiatric condition, and treat this effectively. Prolonged use of pills, without addressing the root cause may result in dependency. Hypnotic (sleep-inducing) medications, like the benzodiazepines, should be used for a few days at a time, to try to break a pattern of sleeplessness, while addressing any underlying problem. They should be used for short periods only, as they may become addictive. Antidepressants are effective in patients in whom depression has been diagnosed. Some Antihistamines have sedative effects and may be effective in the short-term. Melatonin may help insomnia by shifting the phases of the circadian rhythms, but is still undergoing further studies.

Sleep Hygiene is a holistic approach to sleeping. Good sleep hygiene prevents or relieves insomnia, and makes sleep more restful and pleasurable.

  • Establish a regular time for going to bed and waking up.
  • Use the bed for sleep or sexual activity only, not for reading, TV, or work.
  • Avoid naps, especially in the evening.
  • Exercise before dinner – exercising close to bedtime, however, may increase alertness.
  • Take a hot bath about an hour and a half before bedtime.
  • Do something relaxing in the half-hour before bed like reading or a walk.
  • Keep the bedroom cool and ventilated.
  • Do not look at the clock. Worrying about the time and “forcing” yourself to sleep makes it more difficult to sleep.
  • A light snack before bed can help sleep. A large meal may do the opposite.
  • Avoid fluids just before bedtime to reduce the need to urinate.
  • Avoid caffeine in the hours before sleep.
  • Quitting smoking eliminates the effects of nicotine on sleep loss.
  • People who can’t sleep after 15 or 20 minutes should get up and go into another room, read or do a quiet activity using dim lighting until sleepy again.
  • If a person with insomnia is distracted by a sleeping bed partner, a couple of nights apart may be useful.

Tips to beneficial sleep and feeling energized day after day: While many strategies are available, it is important to experiment and discover what works for you, what works for one person may not work for another!

  1. Take control of the stressors in your life.
  2. Focus on what’s really important in life.
  3. Make time for two or three quiet moments during the day and before retiring for the night.
  4. Fitness through exercising.
  5. Exercise will lower anxiety and tension.
  6. Heart and lung fitness, a direct result of exercise, promote healthy sleep.
  7. Easy stretching should precede all exercise.
  8. Exercises such as walking, dancing and aerobic work outs should be done in the late afternoon.
  9. Stay alert during the day.
  10. Keep yourself busy and involved during your daytime activities.
  11. Involvement with other people allows you to reduce stress by focusing on issues other than your own.
  12. Eat balanced meals.
  13. Make this part of the total, personal health plan.
  14. Strive for a balance between vegetables, protein and carbohydrates.
  15. Avoid a large meal within four hours of going to bed.
  16. Alcohol and bedtime do not mix.
  17. The effects of alcohol are greatly magnified by sleep deprivation.
  18. Sleep apnoea can be aggravated by drinking at bedtime.
  19. Avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
  20. Develop a bedtime ritual.
  21. Read for pleasure.
  22. Gradually dim the lights.
  23. As your mind clears and you become drowsy, turn off the light.
  24. Cleanse the mind.
  25. Commit your worried thoughts to an index card on the night stand.
  26. Add some points about the potential solution.
  27. Leave the card there in case you awaken during the night.
  28. Relaxation at bedtime
  29. Play mind games with yourself.
  30. Mental imagery.
  31. Deep breathing.
  32. Time in bed: Only as long as is necessary
  33. You may go to bed earlier than usual due to stress and worries.
  34. Stay in bed only for the period that you usually need for sleep.
  35. Sleep until you are refreshed.
  36. Consult a sleep specialist if needed.
  37. Always share your sleep problems with your doctor.
  38. He/she may give you valuable advice or refer you to a sleep specialist.
  39. Awaking with shortness of breath or chest pain requires prompt attention.
  40. Your doctor must be told if you are falling asleep at inappropriate times.

Reference: Maas J.B. (1999): Power Sleep, New York: Harper Perennial p84-99

Courtesy of Medical Essentials, Health Information


We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep. Experts agree that eight hours should do it for most of us. But while many people simply ignore this advice because they’d rather watch their favourite late night host or catch up on missed chores, other people lose sleep from something that may be out of their power ‘a sleep disorder’.

Sleep experts estimate that over 100 types of sleep disorders affect 70 million Americans each year. A sleep disorder is loosely defined as having some sort of difficulty sleeping, be it the inability to fall or stay asleep, too much sleep or falling asleep at an inappropriate time, or exhibiting abnormal behaviours during sleep. Here are the most common types of sleep disorders.


Insomnia can wreak havoc on the lives of those who are unfortunate enough to have to deal with it, especially if it’s not just temporarily. Insomnia can be caused by persistent stress, lack of exercise, excessive noise or light, using stimulants like drugs and alcohol, psychiatric problems or physical illnesses. Chances are you’ll know if you have insomnia because you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, or have a generally poor quality of sleep, even if you create good sleeping habits for yourself. To treat insomnia, sleeping pills and behavioural therapy may be effective, but check with your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Sleep Apnea

People with sleep apnea may snore loudly and wake up frequently during the night because of disrupted breathing, gasping, gagging or choking, or actually ceasing to breathe while they sleep. Sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? Sleep apnea is a serious sleep-related breathing disorder that can affect anyone, but most commonly affects obese, middle-aged men. It has to do with the size of the neck; the heavier you are, the more fat there is in the throat. That fat narrows the airway, blocking the ability to properly breathe. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be treated with positive airway pressure, where air is blown into the throat, position therapy, oral appliances, and most importantly, weight loss.


It may be comical to see someone all of a sudden fall asleep, but it’s no laughing matter when someone does this in situations like driving or while on the job. Narcoleptics may experience cataplexy, a weakness in the leg, arm or face that can be caused by the oncoming of strong emotions. They may also experience sleep paralysis, an inability to move or speak while conscious, as well as hypnagogic hallucinations, strange dreamlike episodes where they may see things that aren’t there. No cure exists for narcolepsy but with proper treatment, often in the form of stimulants during the day, narcolepsy can be better managed.


It might also look funny to find someone sleepwalking, but again it can be a serious matter. Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, occurs when you complete actions while asleep, like sitting up in bed or getting up to walk around. The eyes are open and appear glassy, and often the actions involve something strange,inappropriate or dangerous. Sleepwalking is common in children but usually goes away in the teens, and sleepwalking often runs in the family.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Remember experiencing what your mom called ‘growing pains?’ Many people mistake restless leg syndrome for growing pains, when in fact they’re not. Symptoms of restless leg syndrome include little involuntary movements in the toes, feet or legs or other uncomfortable or painful sensations that make someone want to walk around or move them (which provides immediate relief). Similar to RLS is periodic limb movement, where someone experiences rhythmic jerking in the feet or legs, which causes restless sleep too. Medication is available for treatment, and doctors also encourage lifestyle changes.

Shift Work

Doctors and nurses and those who work the graveyard shift can attest to this sleep disorder that has to do with the circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that controls the times you feel the need to sleep. The effects of shift work usually go away once a schedule goes back to normal, but tweaking hours forward rather than backward, limiting number of shift changes and allowing for small periods of rests can help.

Some of the more minor sleep disorders can be prevented by developing a healthy sleep routine, while others are simply out of your control. Sleep disorders don’t have to be something to lose sleep over. Get help immediately if any of these signs and symptoms relate to you, and be on your way to a better night’s rest.

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