What is Insomnia?
Insomnia means having trouble sleeping on a regular basis. This can include not being able to fall asleep, waking up several times during the night or waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep.
This can leave you feeling tired and irritable throughout the day and you may struggle to concentrate on your day to day activities such as work or school.
Insomnia can be short term (less than 3 months) or long term (3 months or more). 1 in 3 people are affected by insomnia at some point in their lifetime in the UK.
What causes Insomnia?
There are a number of things that can cause insomnia and often these are the things we need to target in order to improve our sleep.
– Low mood
– Temperature changes
– Uncomfortable environment
– Caffeine and Nicotine
– Recreational drugs
Should I be prescribed sleeping tablets?
Sleeping pills are medications that can help you get to sleep, however, it is important to know that they may not be appropriate to prescribe in every situation.
Medication such as Zopiclone or Diazepam are only licensed for short term use. This means that you can only have them for a maximum of 4 weeks if absolutely necessary.
These tablets only mimic natural sleep and so are best used for a few days to try and get you back into your normal sleep routine.
There are a number of significant risks associated with using sleeping tablets such as:
– Falls and fractures
– Cognitive impairment
– Increased risk of dementia in the elderly
What else can I do?
An average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep and to achieve this we can try other things like:
o Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
o Cutting out caffeine close to bed time
o Avoiding heavy meals or strenuous exercise shortly before going to bed
o No naps during the day!
o Keep the room quiet, dark and electronic free! The blue light emitted from out phones and TVs cause us to stay stimulated and awake
– Sleep hygiene
o Relax at least one hour before bed time, brush your teeth, take a bath, read a book
– Relaxation techniques
o White noise
o Cognitive behavioral therapy
o Sometimes insomnia can be an indicator of other problems going on in your body, such as changes in your thyroid function, make sure you speak to your GP if you think this might be the case
Here are some useful Resources you can explore:
o Insomnia – NHS (www.nhs.uk) -Sleep self assessment on NHS website
o www.babcp.com – British Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapies
o www.patient.co.uk – Useful resource on insomnia, providing sleep education and general advice. It also has links to other articles related to insomnia and support group information.
o www.rcpsych.ac.uk – Overview of insomnia and other sleep problems, with some helpful sleep tips
o www.sleepcouncil.org.uk – Provides information and resources on improving sleep.
o Sleepio | Can’t sleep? Get to sleep and stay asleep without pills or potions
o Overcoming Insomnia and Sleep Problems Colin A. Espie – A self help guide using cognitive behavioral techniques to treat insomnia.
o Why We Sleep Matthew Walker- The new science of sleep and Dreams