One in three of us have problems sleeping at some stage in our lives, yet it is often not properly identified or treated. Moreover, some people may not even be aware that they have a sleep disorder, which can significantly impact on their health.
Sleep disorders essentially fall into 3 groups:
-Not enough sleep
-Sleeping too much (e.g. narcolepsy)
-Abnormal sleep behaviours (e.g. sleepwalking, sleep-talking, night terrors)
Here I’m focusing on the first category -not getting enough shuteye. The main cause of insufficient sleep is insomnia. 10% of the population- that’s 8 million of us – regularly struggle to get off to sleep, stay asleep, or wake up too early and can’t get back to sleep.
It’s not the number of hours asleep or time awake that defines insomnia, but the amount of distress and impairment to daily functioning, that it causes.
Insomnia is more common in women, as we get older and often runs in families. Personality also plays a part; worriers and high achievers are more prone as well as those suffering from depression and anxiety. Other reasons might include medical conditions and some medications. Sometimes fixing the underlying cause is enough to resolve the problem. However, other factors may keep it going.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
The good news? There’s a highly effective treatment for chronic insomnia called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It’s a psychological approach to help people develop skills and strategies to overcome sleep problems by addressing the overactive mind and unhelpful sleep habits.
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)
Another major cause of insufficient sleep is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). It affects 2-4% of people. The hallmark of OSA is frequent long pauses in breathing during sleep (more than 10 seconds at a time), causing repeated brief awakenings and significant sleep deprivation. It’s often accompanied by snoring, and symptoms include daytime sleepiness, nocturnal urination, morning headaches and dry mouth. This condition is readily treatable but if ignored can cause significant long-term health problems. If you have concerns, see your GP for an assessment.