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.

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