Poor or irregular sleep is something that all of us will experience at some point or other and can often resolve itself. However, if sleep is disrupted on a regular basis or for a prolonged period of time, or both, it may be down to a sleep-related condition. Whilst these can be down to physiological reasons, sleep difficulties can also be a psychological issue.
Insomnia is the most common form of sleep condition - an umbrella term that describes prolonged difficulties in falling asleep (initial insomnia), staying asleep, or frequent waking throughout the night. People suffering from insomnia often report not feeling rested after sleeping and this can have a significant impact on overall well-being.
Other sleep conditions include: Hypersomnia: A condition which of excessive daytime sleeping and sleep attacks, not related to a physiological condition (such as narcolepsy).
Sleepwalking: Rising from bed and moving around whilst asleep. Sleepwalking is far more common in children than in adults and usually resolves itself at a young age.
Sleep/Night Terrors: Episodes of extreme panic and distress whilst asleep, often involving physical movement and screams.
Actions that can help
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time. Our body clock (or circadian rhythm) is an internal clock involved in many of the body’s functions, such as when we sleep, eat and are most active. A regulated body clock tends to mean a regular sleeping pattern, and a less disrupted night’s sleep. By going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time every night and day, we can help regulate our body clocks.
- Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine can be a way of boosting your energy levels during the day. However, it can stay in our system for a long time (up to 12 hours) and may affect your ability to fall asleep at night. Caffeine can also make you feel more anxious, which can further exacerbate your sleep routine.
- Schedule in some exercise. By exercising during the day you naturally use up energy and alleviate stress. You don’t have to engage in intense and long periods of exercise - a 20 minute brisk walk can also work wonders.
- Limit your use of technology at least an hour before bedtime. Laptops, iPads, smart phones etc. - all of them emit ‘blue light’, which has been shown to suppress the release of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone which helps our bodies prepare for and initiate sleep. We can struggle to fall asleep without it.
- Avoid napping during the day. Napping for more than 20 minutes during the day can disrupt our body clock, and make it harder for us to fall, or stay, asleep during the night.