Difficulty sleeping is something most of us have experienced at some point in our lives. Population surveys show that between 30% and 45% of adults will experience insomnia in any given year. However, for some, sleeping problems are ongoing. These sleep disorders can be very frustrating and have far-reaching effects on your daily life in terms of reduced functioning, impaired quality of life, or interactions with co-existing mental health issues such as depression.
- Most Australians experience insomnia at some time in their lives, with approximately 10% of people experiencing at least mild insomnia.
- Taking sleeping pills is not an effective way to overcome insomnia in the long term.
- If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, mood issues, restlessness in bed, or you wake up feeling tired or exhausted in the morning, you may be experiencing insomnia.
- If you think you are suffering from insomnia, it is recommended that you see your GP, who can refer you to a specialist or psychologist to help you.
Causes of Insomnia
Insomnia can have many different causes. Some of these include:
- poor sleep habits (sleep hygiene)
- intake of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines
- mental health issues such as anxiety and worry, stress and burnout, and depression
- some prescribed drugs, for example, those to treat asthma or blood pressure;
- medical issues, physical pain and other illnesses that cause discomfort
- grief and loss
- life stage — elderly people are more likely to have insomnia
- shift work.
How Insomnia Affects You
If you are experiencing insomnia, you may:
- find it difficult to focus and concentrate on tasks;
- find it difficult to remember simple things;
- be irritable and moody due to the lack of sleep;
- feel tired and sleepy during the day and prone to making mistakes.
Learning healthy sleep habits and changing lifestyle factors that contribute to your insomnia is the first step to managing the problem.
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
- Ensuring your bedroom is comfortable, quiet and dark
- Cutting down on caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
- Asking your GP to assess whether any medicines you may be taking can contribute to your sleep issues
- Exercising regularly, preferably early in the day
- Avoiding screens in the bedroom and well before your bedtime
- Do something relaxing before bed, like having a cup of herbal tea or practising mindfulness.
Relaxation techniques before sleep
- Breathing exercises
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Mindfulness exercises.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT Therapy
Cognitive behaviour therapy or CBT Therapy is usually provided by psychologists. It can be done individually or in a group.
Your GP may prescribe you medication if you are experiencing chronic insomnia. Your GP or doctor may also advise other methods.