What are the common sleep problems?
> Difficulty getting to sleep – you may have significant trouble getting to sleep, causing you to be awake until the very ‘wee-hours’ of the morning. This can cause anxiety and worry because you know you have to go to work or school the next day.
> Restless sleep – you may find yourself tossing and turning in the bed due to an active mind. You may find yourself overthinking about past or upcoming events. This may result in feeling upset and stressed. You may spiral into a space of worrying about the consequences of not having a sufficient night’s sleep, yet again!
> Disrupted sleep – you may find yourself waking up multiple times throughout the night. This may result in feelings of restlessness and frustration, as you are unable to fall back into a restful sleep.
> Feeling fatigued (during the day) – you may experience fatigue, loss of energy, lack of motivation and irritability the next day. You may find yourself further worrying about your decreased levels of productivity and subsequent inability to concentrate, problem-solve or remember important tasks. Research has also found slower reaction times associated with ‘inadequate’ sleep. This may result in more mistakes or more significantly increase the risk of harm in certain situations for the individual and their loved ones. For example, slower response time when changing lanes on a busy road may just result in a motor vehicle accident.
> Nap (during the day) – you may find yourself feeling the need to nap during the day or pressing snooze well over 3 times before rolling out of bed and into the shower.
> Snoring (at night time) – you may have been told by your partner that you are snoring. This may interfere with his/her restful night sleep. It may also mean you are waking yourself up throughout the night due to the pauses in your breathing, which may end with a gasping or choking noise. The next day you may feel tired and fatigued with reduced energy levels.
> Other sleeping problems – there are a number of other sleep problems, but we included a select few of the more common sleep problems.
What are some of the causes of sleeping difficulties?
> Psychological conditions – symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, overstimulation, or overload in your life.
> Sleep disorders – obstructive sleep apnoea, periodic limb movement disorder and restless legs syndrome.
> Medical illnesses – research indicates a number of medical diagnosis impact sleep such as gastroesophageal reflux, chronic obstructive lung disease and asthma, congestive heart failure, hot flashes, arthritis and other causes of chronic pain, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), urinary conditions, an overactive thyroid among a range of other illnesses.
> Neurological disorders – these may include Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and dementia.
> Stimulants – caffeine, nicotine, among others.
> Medications – you may not be aware of the side effects of some medications you are taking, therefore checking with your GP is recommended. Some medications with side effects include decongestants, bronchodilators, certain antidepressants, steroids, beta blockers and diuretics. Research has also indicated that improper use of sleeping pills can result in rebound insomnia.
There are multiple causes of sleep problems but one thing for sure is that difficulty getting to sleep and disrupted sleep throughout the night may leave you feeling frustrated, stressed, and worried about your sleep problems, which can make it even harder to fall to sleep. For some individuals, this is how the sleep-worry cycle starts.
What is the evidence-based treatment approach with a sleep psychologist?
Treatment delivered by your Psychologist usually involves a combination of the cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and proven sleep-hygiene techniques tailored towards the individual. Other techniques may include:
> Relaxation training – you may be introduced to deep breathing activities, progressive muscular relaxation or meditation. Research has found relaxing your mind at bedtime will help you drift off to sleep.
> Stimulus control therapy – such as going to bed only when you are sleepy. This may include no reading, watching TV, snacking, or eating 2 hours before sleep or listening to music in bed. You may need to explore getting up at the same time every day, no matter how little you have slept and avoid daytime napping where possible.
> Sleep restriction therapy – you may need to reduce your time in bed to the estimated total time you are actually asleep in an average night.
> Cognitive therapy – you will be introduced to proven techniques that allow you to replace negative thoughts about sleep to more positive compassionate thoughts such as “If I relax peacefully in bed, my body will take care of itself”.
What is the first step to seeking help for sleep problems?
Our team recommend you consult with your regular GP to obtain a referral to Positive Wellbeing Psychology, as a medical check-up allows for thorough assessment of all other possible health issue that may be affecting your sleep. Some people with sleep problems may also benefit from a combination of medication adjunct to seeing a Psychologist.