Insomnia is the difficulty in getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. We all need a different amount of sleep, but we should all be able to wake up feeling rested.
Many people have the occasional few nights of insomnia but this should not last more than a few days. If insomnia lasts for many weeks or months, it will impact your life as even mild sleep deprivation has consequences for your health and wellbeing.
This varies but on average:
There are also external factors that cause insomnia such as an uncomfortable bed, a room that’s too hot or cold, or a noisy or smelly room. It can also be caused after travelling due to jet lag or from disrupted sleep patterns experienced on shift work or having young children who are dependent on you and wake in the night.
Insomnia can also be caused by too much alcohol or using recreational drugs.
The recommended treatment is to first, change your sleeping habits. Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark and at a pleasant temperature. Ensure the mattress and pillows are comfortable and the bedding clean. Relax for at least one hour before bed – by reading, listening to music or having a bath. Develop a routine before bedtime so your body is ready for sleeping.
If you have tried the above without success then you may need to see your GP or speak to a counsellor. A counsellor will work with you to find out what thoughts and behaviours are preventing you from sleeping and help you to change these thought patterns.
Sleeping pills are not usually used as a treatment for insomnia as they don’t help the cause of the problems and often have side effects.
The most common type of counselling to help with insomnia is CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy). This aims to help you avoid the thoughts and behaviours that are affecting your sleep. It usually leads to a long-term improvement in your sleep patterns, and the techniques learned can also help guard against other conditions such as anxiety, stress or depression.