An introduction to a difficulty sleeping
Over one in four people in the UK feel that they can’t sleep well enough at night. Many will be experiencing a variety of sleep problems and more rarely, sleep disorders.
All the same, if you are spending yet another night staring at the ceiling waiting for sleep to sweep you over, it is not much comfort to know that there are others in the same position.
With these figures, it will come as no surprise that there is no one single factor causing all this sleeplessness. The reasons are vast and varied, ranging from stress and psychological issues to lumpy mattresses.
What else should I look out for?
If you are able to identify the specific reason why you can’t sleep (eg. worrying about a family or work problem), then tackle this head on.
Most often however, you can’t quite place your finger on one single reason – many find that it is a combination of factors that can contribute to sleep problems. These may include:
- Factors which increase your likelihood of sleep problems such as if you are a natural worrier, if you have family with trouble sleeping or if you are simply lying on a lumpy and uncomfortable mattress
- Specific triggers resulting in you losing sleep. Being excited about an event the next day increases the likelihood of you being unable to sleep. Many people find it more difficult to get a good night's sleep on a Sunday due to worrying about work the next day. Once these triggers have been resolved, you should be able to get a good night’s sleep
- Habits developed over many years can gradually reduce the sleep you are able to enjoy each night. For example, getting into the habit of napping during the day will reduce the amount of sleep you need at night as you ‘turn day into night’. Essentially, you will have taught yourself not to sleep at night.
Sleep problems are the most common reason for poor sleep. They are caused by lifestyle or external factors such as stress and worry, or one might experience interrupted sleep as a result of menopausal night sweats or an enlarged prostate.
Another cause is having a new-born baby and this can disturb sleep to the extent that parents experience the effects of sleep deprivation especially during the first few months.
Sleep problems fall into three main patterns:
Although sleep problems are generally not severe and resolve without intervention, if you can’t sleep well, you will feel worn out the next day. This can have a negative impact on your daily life, so it is worth investigating further. Follow the link for more information about sleep problems and their causes.
Sleep disorders are less commonly encountered than sleep problems. They are medical, psychiatric or psychological conditions which affect your sleep and include:
- Sleep apnoea
- Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
- Sleep walking
Follow the link to find out more about Sleep disorders.
What else can I do if I can’t sleep?
It is important to identify the type of sleep problem or sleep disorder you have as this will make it easier for you to find an appropriate and effective solution.
For example, if you know that you can’t sleep at night because you have been napping during the day, then a simple alteration to your daily routine may solve your sleeping issues.
Changing your lifestyle and environment can help you sleep better. Follow the link to our sleep hygiene tips page for more information.
A number of medicines are available to help with sleep. These range from prescription drugs such as Valium, associated with well-known side effects, to herbal remedies containing Valerian and Hops.
Follow the link to see our page on sleeping aids.