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Night terrors: My experience with sleeplessness and coping


Kate Mikhail, author and sleep expert, explains what it’s like to live with insomnia and offers advice on how to improve your slumber.

image credits: desiringgod

All across the globe, people who suffer from inability to sleep suffer. Insomnia worry, restless nights, and exhaustion are all a consequence of difficulty to get asleep or remain asleep.

Chronic insomnia was a lifelong problem for me, and I would lay awake for long periods of time, my head racing with ideas. Ironically, the more exhausted I was, the more wired and active my mind became.


When I couldn’t go to sleep because I had to be up for work first thing in the morning, I was pushed into a state of fight or flight and all the sleep-sabotaging chemicals that come with it, when I wanted to be in a state of rest and digest. Then sleeplessness anxiety would take hold. Not only was it an annoying waste of time but it was also destabilising at times due to the constant repetition of the same tasks.

Running low on fuel

How much energy we have, our health, cognitive function, emotions and resilience, happiness and productivity are all affected by the quality of our sleep.

I woke up every morning weary, with repeated burnout days, and my emotions were everything but balanced due to my persistent sleeplessness.


Pre-kids In order to compensate for the lack of sleep I had during the week, I slipped into social jet lag and enjoyed extended weekend lie-ins. However, even though the social jet lag appeared to assist in the short term, it was really upsetting my sleep-wake cycle and was not a long-term answer.

My severe insomnia had gotten to the point that I woke up fatigued, had recurrent burnout days, and my emotions were everything from balanced at its height. Having no idea what sleep is or how it works, I simply muddled along, never realising that this never-ending cycle of sleep deprivation is something that can be actively manipulated and improved.

Tactics that failed to alleviate my sleeplessness.


While lavender oil and other natural therapies may be helpful, they aren’t adequate to solve long-term sleep issues or address the underlying reasons of any sleep difficulties.


Insomnia, according to the NHS and the CDC, is characterised by a difficulty to get or remain asleep, as well as a lack of restful sleep. Talk to your doctor if you think you could be suffering from insomnia.

Sleeping pills were an important safety net when anxiousness was threatening to get out of hand, and I needed to get some shut-eye before my alarm went off. The good news is that they’re no longer necessary.


This means that we can better understand our own sleep patterns by looking at them in the context of what’s going on in our brains, bodies (and the environment around us), and our daily routines, in order to make minor adjustments that will help us get the greatest night’s sleep possible.

Knowing what you know leads to a better night’s sleep.

Having a basic understanding of the biology and science of sleep is essential to improving the quality of your sleep. Understanding the science of habit and how habits form in the brain might help us create new sleep-friendly behaviours.


Being aware of and able to deal with the fact that humans are hard-wired to react to light signals all around us has a significant influence on our circadian rhythm and our sleep.

Instead of relying on artificial light to set my circadian rhythms, I’ve started incorporating a variety of light-based strategies into my daily routine, such as taking a walk first thing in the morning.

Get up and go with a wake-up light


A significant sleep trigger.

As a 100-year-old pioneer in cognitive treatment and therapeutic hypnosis, Richard Waters was my great-great uncle, who initially motivated me to study sleep biology and science.

An affirmation of what you should be thinking and feeling before and throughout sleep is called a “sleep script.”

First, I recorded myself reading a short sleep script produced by Waters, and started listening to it every day until it dawned on me that I might heal my severe sleeplessness.


Using the tremendous power of suggestion, which medical professionals and scientists are studying with astounding results, sleep scripts confirm what should occur in your mind and body before and during sleep.

Physiology and how we feel are affected by our words and ideas, according to neuroscience. A sleep script helps us improve the quality of our sleep by influencing our thoughts, bodies, and behaviours.

Stress relievers to help you sleep


A high level of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies, brought on by daily strain and overstimulation, may harm our health and sleep.


Interested in how well you’re snoozing at night? It’s possible to learn not just about how much sleep you get, but also about the quality of your sleep, thanks to the finest sleep trackers. They are available in a variety of forms, including watches and smart rings.


According to the Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime Report, approximately half of all sleep problems may be attributed to stress. If we can better control our stress, then we can enhance our sleep.

For Teach Yourself to Sleep: An Ex-Guide, Insomniac’s I examined a vast variety of science-based stress-busters, and clearly various approaches work for different individuals and may vary depending on the circumstances.

So many things we can do to alter the chemical balance in favour of sleep, such as reframing our emotions, going outside, or enhancing the four happy hormones—dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins—are out there.


Don’t sweat it.

When it comes to sleep, it’s important to understand that it’s not a given. Most of us, even the best sleepers, will have to deal with sleep troubles at some time in our lives, whether it’s a temporary setback caused by illness or a longer-term problem due to stress.

Our circadian rhythm may be strengthened and physiological modifications can be made in order to get us back on the road to deep, restorative sleep if we understand how our day affects our sleep.


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