What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is more common than most people think, with at least 1 in 3 adults experiencing it at some point in their lifetime. Insomnia can present itself in a series of different ways, and if it continues it can have a very negative impact on your life.
Insomnia symptoms may include:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Waking up during the night
- Waking up too early
- Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
- Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
- Irritability, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
- Increased errors or accidents
- Ongoing worries about sleep
Common causes of poor sleeping and insomnia include:
- Increased stress
- Anxiety and excessive worry
- Postnatal depression and anxiety
- Postraumatic stress
- Changes in sleep patterns (e.g. due to ageing)
- Sleep related disorders (e.g. sleep apnoea)
- Changes in health (e.g. chronic pain)
Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night. But your risk of insomnia is greater if:
- You’re a woman. Hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle and in menopause may play a role. During menopause, night sweats and hot flushes often disrupt sleep. Insomnia is also common with pregnancy.
- You’re over age 60. Because of changes in sleep patterns and health, insomnia increases with age.
- You have a mental health disorder or physical health condition. Many issues that impact your mental or physical health can disrupt sleep.
- You’re under a lot of stress. Stressful times and events can cause temporary insomnia. And major or long-lasting stress can lead to chronic insomnia.
- You don’t have a regular schedule. For example, changing shifts at work or traveling can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.
How is insomnia treated?
Treating insomnia depends on the underlying cause of the sleeping difficulties. Generally, psychologists treat insomnia using the following approaches:
- Teaching good sleep habits, referred to as sleep hygiene
- Mindfulness to improve present moment focus and help you ‘let go’ of unhelpful thoughts
- Relaxation strategies to reduce physiological arousal
- Tackling unhelpful thoughts contributing to anxiety and insomnia (e.g. “If I don’t get enough sleep tonight, my day tomorrow will be ruined” or “Now that I am awake, “I will never fall back asleep again”).
If you would like more information or to book an appointment with one of our clinical psychologists, contact us.