There is nothing more apt to cause sleeplessness than the worry that you won't be able to drop off. Sometimes sleeplessness can be normal. After all, we all experience a sleepless night now and then, particularly if we are over-tired, worried, or excited about some coming event.
A lot of so-called insomnia is nothing more than the result of worrying about getting to sleep.
Real, chronic insomnia is less frequent. A major research project into long-term insomnia turned up some interesting facts about sufferers. Over 85 per cent of the 300 insomniacs studied had one or more major pathological personality indications, such as depression, obsessive compulsive tendencies, schizophrenic characteristics, or sociopathy. For them, their insomnia was a secondary symptom of a more basic conflict. Insomnia was a socially acceptable problem they could talk about without fear of being judged harshly. Insomnia is little more than a mask for whatever is really bothering the non-sleeper.
sleeplessness often brings new insights
Occasionally the inability to sleep can be a manifestation of a nutritional problem - often a deficiency of zinc coupled with an excess of copper, which produces a mind that is intellectually overactive and won't wind down - or a deficiency of calcium or magnesium or vitamin E, which can lead to tension and cramping in the muscles and a difficulty in letting go.
The more easygoing an attitude you take to sleep, the less likely you are to have any problem with it. If you miss an hour or two, or if you are not sleepy, simply stay up, read a book, or finish some work. Believe it or not, one of the best times for coming up with creative ideas is in the middle of a sleepless night. It can be the perfect opportunity for turning stress into something creative. Chances are that you'll more than make up for it in the next couple of days - provided you don't get anxious about it.
Insomnia is one of women's greatest fears. Eight times more women report sleep difficulties to their doctors throughout their lives than do men. Apart from the motherhood-induced insomnia which comes from having to feed a baby, if ever you are going to have trouble sleeping, it is most likely to be during the perimenopausal years just before your periods stop, or much later on in your seventies and eighties. People sleep less as they get older for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a decrease in the production of a substance called melatonin, which regulates the body's circadian rhythms. How much sleep you need can change depending on your life circumstances, too. When you are pregnant, eat less wholesome foods, or are under stress or ill you may need more sleep. You need more sleep when you gain weight, too. When losing weight, or during a detoxification regime you will often sleep less.
The sleeplessness that occurs in women around the time of menopause and in the few years just before is most usually not a difficulty in going to sleep, but a tendency to awaken regularly at the same time each night (usually 2 or 3 in the morning) and to lie in bed wide awake. Because we are accustomed to sleeping through the night, we assume that there must be something wrong. Yet sleeplessness can sometimes bring new insights, if you are ready to receive them. Many artists, writers and composers will tell you that they receive inspiration for new projects and discover ways of overcoming creative challenges on awakening in the night.