It is estimated that one in five people in the UK suffer from sleep problems. Known as ‘insomnia’ symptoms include: not being able to get off to sleep, waking in the night, waking too early and not waking refreshed every morning for at least three weeks.

Sleep problems originate during the day. Events that you may find stressful, such as a long and intense working environment, money worries, forthcoming commitments, and the intimidating behavior of other people can all potentially disrupt your sleep patterns. Stresses can be immediate and intense as in unhappy relationships or bereavement. Medium changes in lifestyle such as diet or excessive alcohol consumption can also cause insomnia.

Whatever the underlying problem, you will respond by exhibiting a mild and ongoing stress response, which disturbs your normal ability to sleep. This leads to physical changes in your body such as an increase in muscle tension in areas of your neck, shoulders, stomach and diaphragm. Your nervous system overworks with constant thinking, butterflies in your stomach, dry mouth and eye focusing problems.

Not being able to sleep affects you during the day causing lack of concentration, poor eating, agitation and at worse a lack of attention to dressing and personal hygiene.

Insomnia is a symptom of deeper problems, making it difficult to sleep if the underlying situation is not addressed. Only you will know what the underlying problem is, and it is therefore crucial to focus on finding better and healthier ways of coping with these stresses.  If you are worried it is always worth visiting your GP who may prescribe sleeping medication to see you through short-term problems. Visiting your osteopath for manipulative treatment to reduce the tension in your neck, shoulders and diaphragm can also help.

Here are my 5 tips for reducing tension:

  1.  Try changing your diet keeping it simple; eating little and often, not eating too late, eating slowly, reducing alcohol and drinking water on a regular basis.
  2. While structured exercise can help it is what you do from moment to moment during the day that really matters.  Increasing activity levels can help reduce tension.
  3. When sitting or lying take three deep breaths three times a day, without holding your breath between breathing in and out.  Walking slowly and talking slowly conditions your nervous system to be less agitated.
  4. Do not let situations and people around you raise your tension. Be aware of your body tension in all situations.
  5. Try going to bed and waking at the same time. This gets you into a routine.

Walter Llewellyn McKone, DO is an osteopath practicing in Alexandra Palace and Winchmore Hill. He is an author, lecturer and practitioner in general osteopathic medicine, paediatrics, sports medicine, psychology, philosophy and influenza.  Appointments 020 8889 1610.  You can follow Walter on Twitter:  @mckoneosteo

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