Why we can’t sleepSometimes talking about insomnia can cause such anxiety that even the word equates to someone saying \u2018Voldemort.\u2019 But, the fact is, we as a world are not getting enough sleep \u2013 and it\u2019s time to do something about it. We try to dissect what insomnia is exactly\u2026Early insomnia\u2018You are not alone is suffering from insomnia. Tens of thousands have this problem. It\u2019s usually acute because you have a stressful problem in your life and worry is causing your sleep to be affected.\u2019 The good news is that this usually passes.Chronic insomniaHowever, if you\u2019ve had ongoing poor sleep issues for years then you are suffering from chronic insomnia.Insomnia causesOur brain\u2018There are a couple of parts of our brain that control our sleep and regulate it,\u2019 explains Dr Helen Nightingale. \u2018The cortex, which is the \u2018thinking\u2019 brain and the subcortical \u2013 the \u2018animal\u2019 brain \u2013 which is responsible for keeping us protected while we sleep. For example if you\u2019re a mum and you\u2019re currently in a deep sleep, you\u2019ll immediately wake up if you hear your child crying, or you\u2019ll wake up if you need the toilet. When the cortex shuts down it transfers control to the limbic system, which is concerned with instinct and mood. It controls the basic emotions and drives.Our objective is to quieten the cortex and avoid worrying. The cortex needs to go quiet so that the subcortical can work. People who have been good sleepers can start having problems when their brain actively focusses on unimportant negative thoughts.\u2019Our anxiety\u2018Usually it is anxiety that disrupts our sleep and that is related to thoughts that interrupt us during periods of light sleep during the night if we have worries during this time. Everyone\u2019s own pattern of sleep will vary and some need more than others. And it also depends on age and our personal sleep patterns both across the night and also the week. There are also chemicals that can change our sleep most importantly alcohol, and mediations. So sleep is a complex issue. One important point to remember is about real sleep. Sometimes we think we have not slept a wink, but this is actually not true (paradoxical sleep) we feel as if we have not slept. But indeed we have.\u2019Insomnia curesKeep a sleep diary\u2018First of all start a sleep diary for a couple of weeks to monitor it,\u2019 Dr Helen Nightingale recommends. \u2018This should include time to bed, time you fell asleep and then time you first wake up and the number of disturbances through the night. It is also helpful to record the quality of sleep. Use a scale of 1-10 and then rate the sleep. Also record the time you wake up in the morning and the time you actually got out of bed. Try to record this quite accurately, but don\u2019t do it until the morning, (it\u2019s not a good idea to be turning on the light and writing things down during the night.)Have a sleep-friendly environment\u2018Now you may start trying to set up situations that will increase the chances of having a better nights sleep.There are a number of main factors you should consider:The environment that you sleep in, the temperature and the conditions that you are sleeping in all affect you. Avoid alcohol and have a wind-down period between eating and watching TV. Allow yourself an hour before bedtime with no phone, no TV, no tablets, etc. And, you need to take a peaceful approach to going to sleep. Your bedroom should be dark, without noise.\u2018As worrying is a key factor, try practicing mindfulness, meditation and especially transcendental meditation, which is always very good for calming you down when you do something or experience something that de-regulates you, such as your partner leaving you or a family death.\u2018I\u2019d also recommend reading \u2018Overcoming Insomnia and Sleep Problems: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques\u2019 by Colin Espie. I also use the Alpha-Stim cranial electrotherapy simulation device as an assistant to a comprehensive protocol for sleep as part of a good cognitive behavioural therapy programme. The Alpha-Stim is used as an adjunct to enable my patients to start re-aligning their system. It calms them down with the alpha waves. It\u2019s a good preparation for getting the brain back into kilter,\u2019 says Dr Helen Nightingale.Now, remember next time you find yourself unable to sleep that you are not alone and more often than not, your insomnia is just temporary and you\u2019ll be sound asleep again soon enough.