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Tuesday, 23 July 2019 12:45

I have just got to get to sleep! Featured

I have just got to get to sleep!

One third of a healthy person’s life on average will be spent asleep. It’s a good thing to for as Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth:

Sleep that knits up the ravell’d  sleave of care.

Or, as Grandma used to say:

Cheer up! Things will look better in the morning.

But, for something so natural why can’t it come to us all as easily as eating and breathing? And what can we do about it when tossing and turning about in our beds?

Insomnia is the experience of inadequate sleep despite adequate sleep opportunity and may be accompanied by daytime dysfunction such as fatigue, moodiness, poor concentration and poor performance at work. It can be potentially fatal if it interferes with driving effectiveness.

Approximately 30% of people will experience brief episodes of insomnia. However, about 10% of people will suffer from a chronic insomnia disorder where they will have difficulty sleeping for at least 3 nights a week for over 3 months.

For brief episodes of insomnia, adopting better sleep habits and lifestyle adjustments may be sufficient and the links below have plenty of helpful suggestions.

For those with persisting problems with sleep, the solution may not be that simple. A full medical assessment is important, as poor sleep may be a symptom of other conditions causing secondary insomnia.  The list of possibilities is long but includes things such as:

  • Psychiatric disorders such as depression, PTSD and bipolar disorder
  • Medical disorders such as sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome, early dementia and chronic pain
  • Medications, alcohol and other substance use.

Like most important medical problems a quick trip to the doctor to pick up a pill that will do the trick is rarely going to be the answer. A full assessment is needed.

Although sleeping tablets can be prescribed they are rarely the solution in the long term and come with their own problems and the loss of effectiveness over time.

The most useful technique to help with long-term primary insomnia (where there is no other cause apparent) is a psychological technique called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  A trained therapist can provide this although there are also some excellent on-line programs available such as Sleepio: https://www.sleepio.com

Before attending the doctor, it is very helpful to keep a 2-week diary of your sleep experience detailing how much sleep you have had and the quality of that sleep.

With chronic insomnia, the path to getting back to good sleep is not quick or easy but it is possible. It starts with a full medical assessment and then a commitment to making changes in your thoughts and behaviours around sleep. It is a worthwhile task for to quote Macbeth again sleep is the:

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

I am not sure Grandma could say it quite so well!