Insomnia can be psychologically frustrating and physically draining, and the older a person gets, the more likely they are to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Some people’s sleep problems can be traced to life experiences or mental patterns that can be addressed with a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional. Worry over work or finances, social anxiety, and overall stress may keep someone awake at all hours. In such a case, a psychotherapist can use cognitive behavioral therapy and other proven disciplines to help the individual learn to address these stressors and relax their minds. Yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, and other disciplines are also good tools for relieving stress and slowing the mind down.
But for some people, insomnia may not be a psychological issue. This is especially true with adults over the age of fifty, particularly women. In many cases, mature adults who struggle to sleep well are simply prescribed a prescription sleep aid. This is concerning for a few reasons. On one hand, people in this age group are increasingly more likely to be taking prescriptions for other health ailments, and the potential for interference is always a concern. Secondly, insomnia may be an indication of some other imbalance in the person’s physical or emotional life. Addressing that imbalance is a more effective, and healthy, solution than simply treating the symptom.
It’s for that reason that Tai Chi, therapy, meditation, and similar approaches have been strongly advocated by people in both the physical and mental health communities. A new study shows that aerobic exercise is one of the most effective non-pharmacological responses to insomnia, especially for middle aged and older women. In the study, participants who did 2-3 hours (total) or aerobic activity not only slept better and longer, but reported greater vitality throughout the day and lower rates of depressive symptoms in general.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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