Does hypervigilance cause insomnia? Yes, difficulty sleeping is a result of hyperarousal.
It’s this hypervigilance that blocks the path to sleep, whether it is :
- cognitive (by thoughts),
- behavioral, or
- the very functioning of the autonomic nervous system.
Our nervous system is the conductor of our most intuitive reactions, but also of all our physiological parameters like heart rate, breathing…
Basically, all treatments for chronic insomnia want to reduce this hyperarousal.
Nobody wants to get addicted to sleeping pills. So we made a list of the alternatives to avoid systematic or long-term use of them.
Table of Contents
Does hypervigilance cause insomnia? Yes, so here’s how to calm and let go of hypervigilance
Therapeutic massage (manipulation of the deepest layers of muscles and supporting connective tissue) influences the tension reflex activity of the muscles. It prevents the sensitivity of the motor neurons.
Motor neurons are nerve cells directly connected to a muscle and control its movement. This is how massage can promote relaxation and a sense of well-being.
Muscle relaxation is a part of falling asleep, so they are closely related. When your muscles are relaxed, the nerves associated with them send signals that stimulate the switch to fall asleep.
For this reason, it’s no surprise that a massage had a positive effect on sleep.
Studies in different contexts and with various techniques have proven this effect. Most studies that used massage as a therapy seemed to show a positive effect on insomnia, no matter which massage technique was used.
More and more studies seem to show a positive impact of yoga on sleep. But yoga is one of those practices that is hard to reproduce, so objective evaluation is challenging to document.
So how can we really scientifically compare practices that are very dependent on their teacher?
Nowadays, most studies still use only the self-evaluation by the practitioner himself as the criterium of judgment. However, they don’t compare their opinion with more objective data like their sleep characteristics.
However, there are some results to consider. The largest study about this subject compared the effects of yoga with a placebo. They divided the participants into three groups.
The first group followed a real learning practice, consisting of:
- physical postures
- relaxation and breathing techniques
- lectures about the philosophy of yoga
The second group received an Ayurvedic prescription of herbal preparation. The third group served as a control group and received no practice or prescription.
The participants were evaluated after one week, three months, and six months. Their opinion and personal experience were measured on an evaluation scale.
The results of the first group after six months of practice were:
- a significantly reduced time needed to fall asleep
- an increase of the total time of sleep
- a positive change in the feeling of rest in the morning
The subjects in groups two and three had no effect on their sleep.
The concept of hyperarousal plays a significant role in the foundation of insomnia.
Slowly, insomniacs develop selective attention for all signs related to sleep. It’s as if they are putting effort into falling asleep, which can only block the natural mechanisms of sleep.
All the thoughts that invade the insomniac’s mind hinder the beginning of sleep. As a result, they are in a state of hyper-awakening filled with worries, perceptions, blaming, and guilt.
The practice of mindfulness could help insomniacs to focus their attention on these psychic or physical processes without trying to control them.
The point is to develop this attitude of acceptance without judging the present moment to avoid further sleeplessness.
Relaxation techniques based on muscle relaxation
Relaxing… It’s almost bland, an obvious need to better cope with anxiety disorders and, therefore, insomnia. But the question remains: why relaxation? And how? And most importantly, is it even effective?
Muscular relaxation is a state defined by the total relaxation of the tone of muscles. It can also be defined as the structure of a state of muscular and psychological relaxation.
So… basically, a state essential for the onset of sleep, right? And yes, there is a close link between the amount of muscular tension and the ability to fall asleep.
For example, you cannot fall asleep standing up, or even sitting down, without the head collapsing.
The general goal of all relaxation techniques is learning and training yourself to get in this state of physical and mental relaxation. There are different types of relaxation techniques. Which type works best for you is for you to decide.
Lastly, it should come as no surprise that, in order to relax, your body also needs to be comfortable.
If you’re overweight, your bed may be a cause of frustration due to a lack of support or comfort.
Give yourself the best chance of relaxing in bed by checking out the best sturdy bed frames for overweight folks here.
Related: What kind of bed frame is good for a heavy person?
Does hypervigilance cause insomnia? Conclusion
Yes, hypervigilance can lead to insomnia because it is a form of hyperarousal.
When you are more aroused than normal (hyperarousal), you do not allow your mind and body to achieve a more relaxed state which is necessary to fall asleep.
If the mind or body is continuously stimulated in one way or another, there is no way for it to relax enough.
In the case of hypervigilance, it is more the mind than the body which is literally too busy to fall asleep.
To give your mind the best possible chance of relaxation, you also need to assess your sleeping environment, more on this in our other post Which environmental pollution is responsible for causing insomnia?