- Insomnia is a sleep disorder that effects people by not letting them fall asleep or letting them stay asleep, this leads onto a number of associated issues.
- Excessive sleepiness, difficulty in remembering / thinking clearly, irritability, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
- 30% to 40% of people can at some point in their life be effected by insomnia. More common in people over the age of 60, but anyone can be effected.
- Temporary insomnia can be triggered by jet lag,stress, noise, temperature, caffeine etc – can last from one night up to four weeks.
- Persistent insomnia can be triggered by medical issues, the medication to treat those ailments, asthma, arthritis and its associated pain – will last at least every night for a month or longer.
- Hypnotherapy can help by looking at the underlining problem that causes the insomnia, unlocking the subconscious and using deep relaxation to calm and teach yourself to relax naturally and completely.
What is a normal nights sleep?
A normal night’s sleep has three main parts:
- Quiet sleep. This is divided into stages 1-4. Each stage becomes more deep. Quiet sleep is sometimes called deep sleep.
- Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep occurs when the brain is very active, but the body is limp, apart from the eyes which move rapidly. Most dreaming occurs during REM sleep.
- Short periods of waking for 1-2 minutes.
Each night, about 4-5 periods of quiet sleep alternate with 4-5 periods of REM sleep. In addition, several short periods of waking for 1-2 minutes occur about every two hours or so, but occur more frequently towards the end of the night’s sleep.
What are the causes of poor sleep?
Poor sleep may develop for no apparent reason. However, there are a number of possible causes which include the following:
Concern about wakefulness
You may remember the normal times of being awake in the night. You may feel that to wake in the night is not normal, and worry about getting back off to sleep. You may clock-watch, and check the time each time you wake up. This may make you irritated or anxious, and you are more likely to remember the times of wakefulness. You may then have an impression of having a bad night’s sleep, even when the total amount of time asleep was normal.
Poor sleep is often temporary. This may be because of stress, a work or family problem, jet lag, a change of routine, a new baby, a strange bed, etc. Poor sleep in these situations usually improves in time.
Stress, anxiety or depression
You may find it difficult to switch off your anxieties about work, home or personal problems. Also, poor sleep is sometimes due to depression. Other symptoms of depression include a low mood, lethargy, poor concentration, tearfulness, and persistent negative thoughts. Depression is common. Treatment of depression or anxiety often cures the poor sleep too.
This sometimes occurs in people who snore, most commonly in obese people. In this condition the large airways narrow or collapse as you fall asleep. This not only causes snoring, but also reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to the lungs. This causes you to wake up to breathe properly. You may wake up many times each night which may result in daytime tiredness. See separate leaflet called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea for details. Note: most people who snore do not have sleep apnoea, and do sleep well.
Various illnesses keep some people awake. For example, illness causing pain, leg cramps, breathlessness, indigestion, cough, itch, hot flushes, mental health problems, etc.
These can interfere with sleep. There are three common culprits.
Alcohol – many people take an alcoholic drink to help sleep. Alcohol actually causes broken sleep and early morning wakefulness.
Caffeine – which is in tea, coffee, some soft drinks such as cola, and even chocolate. It is also in some painkiller tablets and other medicines (check the ingredients on the medicine packet). Caffeine is a stimulant and may cause poor sleep.
Nicotine (from smoking) is a stimulant, and it would help not to smoke.
Street drugs (for example, ecstasy, cocaine, cannabis and amfetamines) can affect sleep.
Some medicines sometimes interfere with sleep. For example, ‘water tablets’ (diuretics), some antidepressants, steroids, beta-blockers, some slimming tablets, painkillers containing caffeine, and some cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine. Also, if you suddenly stop taking regular sleeping tablets or other sedative medicines, this can cause rebound poor sleep.
Some people just need less sleep than others. If your sleep pattern has not changed, and you do not feel sleepy during the day, you are probably getting enough sleep. Older people and people who do little exercise tend to need less sleep. Some people think they should be able to nap during the day – and sleep eight hours at night!
A vicious cycle
Whatever the initial cause, worry about poor sleep, and worry about feeling tired the next day, are common reasons for the problem to become worse.
What about sleeping tablets?
Sleeping tablets are not usually advised
The main types of sleeping tablets are in a class of medicines called benzodiazepines, and a class called Z drugs. In the past, sleeping tablets were commonly prescribed. However, they have been shown to have problems, and are now not commonly prescribed.
Possible problems with sleeping tablets include:
- Drowsiness the next day. You may not be safe to drive or to operate machinery.
- Clumsiness and confusion in the night if you have to get up. For example, if you have had a sleeping tablet, you may fall over if you get up in the night to go to the toilet. (Older people who take sleeping tablets have an increased risk of falling and breaking their hip.)
- Tolerance to sleeping tablets may develop if you take them regularly. This means that, in time, the usual dose has no effect. You then need a higher dose to help with sleep. In time, the higher dose then has no effect, and so on.
- Some people become dependent (addicted) on sleeping tablets, and have withdrawal symptoms if the tablets are stopped suddenly.