How best to help with insomnia?

Better by far than dependence on drugs is for the insomniac first to learn the relaxation response, and then to learn, in the simple way outlined in the next three pages, how to use the relaxation response to promote easy sound sleep unhampered by addictive chemicals of any sort.

It is important to look at exactly where the insomniac is with reference to his very private world of insomnia. If, as is so often the case, he is taking sleeping pills he will have to face going through what is called the rebound. Starting to use a hypnotic drug helps sleep to come and makes sleep less broken; stopping a hypnotic drug makes sleep harder to come by and makes it more broken. As all hypnotic drugs also reduce anxiety, a similar rebound phenomenon occurs here too. Some popular sleeping pills have rather long actions – up to seven or eight hours – and enough sedative action remains in the system during the following day to allay anxiety until the next dose is taken at night. In many ways the sleeping pill habitue is in the same trap as the heavy drinker, whose evening dose of alcohol becomes fully metabolized by the morning and causes him to face either a painful degree of anxiety then – or another large whisky to ‘settle his nerves’.

It is possible for medical help to modify the rebound phenomenon and make it less worrying and traumatic. Always, however, it has to be faced before more natural sleep and anxiety-reducing therapy can put the insomniac or the tension-ridden victim back on the right road.

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