Dealing with the effect of crisis events – Sleep Problems

What are sleep problems?

These are little or no regular sleeping issues due to factors (identified or not) that is hindering you from having your usual normal sleep. 

Kinds of sleeping problems:

There are different ways in which our regular sleeping problems can be affected . Some of them includes although they are not limited by any means to:

  • not getting to sleep easily
  • waking many times during the night
  • waking very early and not being able to get back to sleep again
  • poor quality of sleep
  • sleeping in the daytime
  • nightmares and bad dreams

Causes of sleep problems:

Things do not happen in isolation, there are always reasons for the things that happen to us. In the case of sleep problems, some of the causes could be as a result of:

  • stress
  • ill health
  • low mood
  • anxiety
  • worry
  • poor sleep pattern
  • caffeine – coffee/ tea / cola drinks
  • alcohol
  • nightmare

 Dealing with sleep problems:

In dealing with sleep problems we should first of all look at the circle of sleep which is; preparing to go to bed, being in bed and dealing with bad dreams and/ or nightmares.

Preparing to go to bed 

A lot of people just go to bed without being prepared, no wonder the challenge of sleep in crisis situations increases and becomes difficult to manage. There are specific things we need to avoid to enable us dealing with our preparing to go to bed. Most of them could be best identified with the help of a specialist but the most basic ones to avoid are:


  • drinking any drinks containing caffeine after lunchtime
  • drinking lots of fluids
  • exercising late in the evening
  • watching TV, computers or our phones (the light from these makes our brain think it’s daytime!)
  • doing something that takes a lot of concentration
  • thinking about your problems

It is mostly recommended that the following be done in readiness to go to sleep:


  • make your bedroom as quiet and comfortable as possible
  • try to wind yourself down for 1-2 hours before bed
  • wash before going to sleep
  • read some relaxing literature before bed time
  • listen to relaxing music
  • try to keep very relaxed before going to bed.
  • go to bed when you feel sleepy

Being in Bed

Whilst it is great to be well prepared before going to bed, it is equally important to also plan for a fruitful stay in bed. Here is little suggestion to consider while in bed.


  • try not to worry about not sleeping – you’ll only keep yourself more awake
  • remind yourself that you are still resting and will fall asleep when you are ready
  • try not to watch the clock – put it out of sight
  • gently focus on your body relaxing or your breathing to feel at peace

In cases when all of the above is being tried but not much is achieved, then try the 15 minutes rule. The 15 minutes rule states that if you are not asleep within 15 minutes GET OUT of bed go and sit somewhere else and do something quiet and relaxing. Only when you feel sleepy go back to bed and if you are not asleep again in 15 minutes GET OUT of bed again.

This is important because it will help the individual to train his/her mind to associate bed with sleep and not to being awake. We should also be careful not to sleep at the wrong time – especially when you realize that there is a newly developed unusual sleeping habits that tends to creep into already established patterns of sleeping – like sleeping during the day.

Managing our Sleep:

It is best to always decide on a time you would want to wake in the morning that seems reasonable to you. This time should be your sleep anchor which you must not change. To be able to do this effectively, you could set an alarm and get up at this time even if you have had no sleep at all. Avoid taking a nap during the day even though it will be difficult for a few days but stick at it! This process could be repeated until you start to fall asleep at a reasonable time in the evening

Dealing with Bad dreams/Nightmares

Bad dreams/nightmares are best described in the following ways:

  • These can be unpleasant mental pictures which are not necessarily dangerous
  • They might affect your sleep by waking you up or because you are frightened to go to sleep
  • If you are having problems or worries in your life you will be more prone to nightmares
  • Bad dreams are more common in people who have been through stressful experiences such as living in a camp as a result of crisis such as mudslide/flooding or working in communities affected by crisis.
  • They are also common in those who have been bereaved.

Dealing with patterns of Bad Dreams/Nightmares

Lots of people are of the opinion that these are either natural trends and cannot be managed. Others are of the view that these are either attack by evil intending to have us killed or wreck some harm on us or those connected with us. These are cultural beliefs which are subject to change. It is very possible to manage our bad dreams/nightmares. This could be best done by re-scripting/rewriting your dream life using the following approach:

  • In the daytime write down or go through in your mind the ‘script’ of the nightmare as it plays out in the bad dream
  • Find the point just before it turns bad
  • Re-write the script changing it into a happy ending

If it still persists go to the mental health unit at the nearest government hospital where you are living.

Dealing with the effect of crisis events – Anger

There are common problem behaviours that goes side by side with crisis situations as in the case of the recent flooding and mudslide disaster or working in a crisis affected community? These are: Anger (and) Drinking

Understanding what anger is?

Anger is:

  • a normal human emotion.
  • feeling annoyed, frustrated, irritated, or even very angry from time to time.
  • expressed by shouting, yelling, or swearing, but in extreme cases it can escalate into physical aggression towards objects (e.g. smashing things) or people (self or others).
  • sometimes could be a brooding, silent, or leads to withdrawal.

Things to watch out against:

  • Do I found myself getting really angry at people or situations?
  • When I got angry do I got really mad?
  • When I got angry do I stayed angry for a very long time?
  • When I got angry at someone do I really want to hit them?
  • Do my anger prevented me from getting along with people as well as I’d have liked?

Benefits and problems of Anger:

There is always a good and bad effect of problem behaviours – however, what most times could be considered as good effects are only temporal and does not have a lasting impact. Whilst anger would help the individual to unwind the tension within and at the same time makes them feel high, it damages the individual’s health, expensive to maintain, results to low feeling afterwards, affects quality of sleep as well as causes relationship problems.

The costs are very much in terms of effect than the benefits; So then preventing or dealing with it is very important – It is much more important to manage ones anger than unleash it.

If and when an individual manages his/her anger, he/she is able to facilitates better sleeping pattern, becomes more focused than distracted and conserves more energy than expels it.

Sources/Causes for Anger:

Anger comes mainly as a result of a feeling of boredom, low mood, feeling anxious, having bad memories, wanting to do the same as your friends or an habitual feelings that one may have at certain days or times of the week

Can someone be able to modify problem behaviours like Anger?
Problem behaviours especially issues of anger could be effectively modified. It mainly focuses on the causes of anger that the anger reaction itself. This could be done through the following steps/practices:

  • When you feel Boredom find something to do
  • When you feel your mood is low, find something else to do that is enjoyable
  • When you are not able to manage the above two suggestions find someone to talk to – So at best problem behaviour (specifically anger) can be modified but not managed?

There is the traffic light rule which helps to deal with anger in another way. It states that when you are really angry (which shows the red light) it means it is dangerous to go ahead, therefore you must stop right there as is the same rule for a car. Wait for a moment until you feel the orange light is on (which requires be ready to act). In this case the orange light requires the individual get ready to calm down, breathe out – blow the anger away. And take 2 deep breaths to wait for the green light which instructs you to either go away or distract yourself until you feel calmer.

What effect does anger has on an individual?

Anger affects an individual’s body, behaviour and thoughts and when it persists and is not controlled then it becomes a serious problem and would require someone to see a mental health worker for specialized support.

Where can these supports be found?

Every government hospital has a mental health worker – you can access a free of cost care for such talking sessions. It is better to seize such opportunities than to allow it to totally destroy your valued relationships.


What is Psycho-Social Support?

The term psychosocial means the dynamic relationship between the psychological and social effects, of events on individuals. Psychosocial Counselling is important because helping the client to identify his/her problem and make choices will build his or her self-esteem, empower him or her and ultimately develop resilience.

Psychosocial counseling is important because it helps the client to identify his/her problems and makes choices/find solutions in building his/her self-esteem, empower him/herself and ultimately develop resilience. Successful psychosocial counselling will turn victims to survivors.

Trauma is a complex and difficult word to define. It should be noted that the word shock brought by trauma might cause a long-term change in an individual. Trauma tears apart the complex system of self-protection of an individual that normally functions in an integrated fashion. Trauma arrests the normal course of development by the repetitive intrusion into the survivor’s life.

Why is psychosocial counseling important?

  • it helps the client or child/survivor to identify their problems and make choices to build their esteem
  • it also empowers a survivor and ultimately develop resilience
  • it helps the survivor identifies his/her problems, makes choices/solutions
  • it will ultimately turn victims to survivors.

Note: In most cases the absence of psychosocial counseling will lead the victims to become traumatized

What are psychological effects?

This refers to those, which affect:

* Emotions            – Outward expressions of inner feelings — laugh, smile, cry etc.

* Behavior            – Conduct — e.g. grumbler, glutton, and drunkard, recluse.

* Thoughts            – Thinking, “the world is coming to an end”; I am a failure”, I am defiled”

* Memory              – Difficult to remember, to recall events.

* Learning ability- Short attention span, cannot concentrate, lack of motivation

* Perceptions       – How you perceive and understand things – calling a snake a lizard, a dog a cat,


The term psychosocial simply underlines the dynamic relationship between the psychological and social effects, each continually influencing the other.

Why is psychosocial support important?

It is designed to meet four broad functional needs of survivors and/ or affected persons in crisis situations. Some psychosocial needs in situations like mudslides and flooding crisis situations has:

Psychological effects:

These are the ones that affect emotions, behavior, thoughts, memory, learning ability, perception and understanding.

Social effects:

These refer to altered relationships due to death, separation, estrangement, other losses, family and community breakdown, damage to social values and customary practices, the destruction of social facilities and services.

Social effects also include the economic dimension as many individual and family become destitute through the material and economic devastation, thus losing their social status and place in their familiar social networks.

Economic Effects:

Relate above effects to its impact on the economy- No schooling, no work, no community shows/night clubs, no Cinemas, no games etc.

Spiritual Effects:

  • Lack of trust in God and believe in his existence
  • Isolation from prayers
  • Poor listening or concentrations

What are some psychosocial needs of children affected by crisis events like mudslides and flooding?

Restoring moral values

  • Love, and care
  • Tolerance
  • Empathy
  • Spiritual Guidance
  • Building self-steam

Why do we need psychosocial support for parents and Community members?

Psychosocial Counseling:

Psychosocial counseling is one of the strategies employed for the rehabilitation of the mind of victims for their successful integration and resettlement into their various homes and communities. Its approach to healing is holistic, that is the physical, psychological and social well-being of individuals.

It is important because it helps the clients to identify his/her problem and make choices that will build his/her self-esteem, empower him/her and ultimately develop resilience.

Successful psychosocial counselling will turn victims to survivors