When you are lying awake at night, trying to sleep, you may feel that you are the only person in the world who is awake trying to sleep. But you are not alone! Today, more than 30% of the population reports having sleep problems a few nights a week or more. Our ability to sleep, unfortunately, decreases as we get older, so much that up to 60% of people over the age of 60 suffers from insomnia, at some stage. Women are twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men.
Poor sleep can cause or exacerbate ill-health conditions such as high blood pressure and anxiety or depression. Therefore, seeking help from your doctor and psychologist before sleeplessness becomes a chronic problem is a clever move, early treatment can prevent the downward spiral of mental and physical health. But regardless, a psychologist can help you if your sleep problem is recent or has been there for a long time.
Understanding sleeping problems or insomnia
Sleep disorders are disturbances in the way that you sleep. A sleep disorder can affect your overall health, safety and quality of life. Sleep deprivation has been found to affect our ability to drive safely and increase the risk of other health problems.
Lack of sleep is associated with a number of health problems which impact on physical, emotional and cognitive functions. After a poor night of sleep, we wake up feeling tired with a foggy mind which will radically impair the way we function during the day. Research has shown, what we have all experienced, that lack of sleep will reduce concentration, memory, tolerance, increasing irritability, aches/pain, anxiety and a general feeling of being unwell.
Typically, signs and symptoms of sleep disorders include daytime sleepiness, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. There could be also irregular breathing and increased movement during sleep. There are many types of sleep disorders.
The more common sleep disorders include:
• Insomnia: difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night or waking too early in the morning.
• Sleep apnea: abnormal patterns in breathing while asleep which may include snoring.
• Restless legs syndrome (RLS): sleep movement disorder.
• Narcolepsy: extreme sleepiness during the day and falling asleep suddenly during the day.
If you think you might suffer from any of these sleep issues, or other sleep disturbances, it is important to see your doctor so that they can be treated effectively. Whether you have occasional trouble sleeping or you're living with a sleep disorder, you can improve the quality of your sleep and learn to better manage your condition.
Causes of sleep problems
The cause of insomnia varies as well as their severity. Stress, life changes, loss, children and illnesses can all affect our ability to sleep. Some mental health conditions can cause ongoing insomnia such as suffering from pain, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders. Physical conditions such as breathing difficulties, apnea, arthritis, asthma, heart problems, acid reflux disease, restless legs syndrome, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), as well as diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's can also cause sleeplessness. In addition, some medication required to treat an illness can exacerbate insomnia. In many cases, sleepless nights are not just caused by one factor, but there could be a combination of factors that together produce insomnia. If you snore at night, it may be worthwhile to see your doctor to check if you also suffer from sleep apnea.
Getting older will also change the pattern of your sleep. As we age our brain is less able to maintain a deep sleep pattern for 8 hours. That is, after the age of 55-60, you may find your sleep less restful, lighter and you may be more prone to night-time awakening or find yourself waking up early in the morning without being able to get back to sleep. Ageing well includes learning to adapt to a lighter sleep pattern.
When to seek help
You have a sleep problems if you find that for the last a few weeks, for most nights, you have been sleeping less than 6 hours a night because you have had difficulties falling asleep at night, or that you wake up during the night or in the early in the morning and cannot fall back to sleep easily and that subsequently you feel tired the next day. If the sleep problem has lasted more than three months then it becomes a chronic sleep problem and is called chronic insomnia.
It is widely believed that sleep problems occur following mental health issues although it can also be caused by physical health problems. In any case, sleeplessness has a negative impact on your health overall. The DSM-5 recommends a separate assessment and treatment for sleep disorders. It states that sleep disorders should be treated on their own, whether, a mental health issue is present and is being addressed. Some research suggests that sleep problems can cause mental health issues. In any case, we know that getting enough sleep can greatly improve our sense of well-being GP can assess the extent to which the sleep problem is due to your physical or mental health and a possible referral to a psychologist. In either case, seeing a psychologist is often beneficial to help you to develop long term strategies to manage insomnia.
Our psychologist will first listen to you and make an assessment of what would be most beneficial for you to help you to improve your sleep pattern. Our psychologist will most likely introduce you to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and Mindfulness for insomnia which has been proven to be as effective or in some studies more effective than taking sleeping tablets, especially in the long-term. CBT takes a holistic approach to explore the cause of the sleep problem, exploring social, emotional, behavioural as well as environmental aspects of a person’s life. CBT consist of challenging unhealthy beliefs and fears around sleep to adopt helpful thinking style. It also focuses on developing relaxation skills and improving lifestyle habits to promote better restful sleep. Our psychologist will also explore the possible underlying causes of the sleep problem which could be triggered by anxiety, stress or depression.
Cognitive behaviour therapy(CBT) has been found to help people to sleep better as it aims to reduce false, unhelpful beliefs about sleep (the cognitive part) but also addresses the behavioural aspect, such as what to do when you are lying in bed and can't fall asleep.
Although CBT is now considered the treatment of choice for chronic insomnia, no single treatment method is effective for all insomnia patients. Sometimes psychological and pharmacological approaches need to be integrated. Even if your sleep disorder requires the use of prescription medication by your doctor, it is still recommended combining your medication regimen with therapy and a healthy lifestyle.
How our psychologist can help
It is important to address sleep problems since it impacts your mental and physical health, not to mention the quality of your work and relationships with others. In addition, it may be important to assess underlying factors which may cause your insomnia such as physical illnesses, chronic pain, alcohol, anxiety, and/or depression. You can talk to your GP for an assessment to determine the cause and identify treatment options before your health and quality of life are further compromised. Your GP may recommend for you to see a psychologist to improve your sleep.
Our experienced psychologist has helped hundreds of people to have a more restful sleep. First, our psychologists will listen to assess the type and the cause of sleep disturbance. Then a plan of intervention will be proposed which could involve promoting behaviour for better sleep hygiene. It could also, involve managing thoughts, feelings and emotions that are getting in the way of a good’s night sleep. Our psychologist will also introduce you to some mindfulness practices managing stress during the day if that is an issue for you. She will also give you some guided audio relaxation or meditation exercises which you can listen at home to help you to calm your mind to have a more restful sleep. Our psychologist may also assess other underlying causes such as depression, anxiety or other mental health issues that may also be affecting your sleep. Managing the underlying cause will help you to obtain more restful sleep.
Our psychologist will ask you about your overall physical and emotional concerns. The aim is to help you to identify underlying stressors and behaviours that may be hindering your sleep.
Our psychologist, over the years, has helped hundreds of clients to have a better night's sleep. We are offering an evidence-based Mindfulness, Self-Compassion and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), tailor-made for your needs to manage your insomnia.
If you believe that you have a sleep problem, you can ask your GP for an assessment and for a referral to our clinical psychologist. The referral (Mental Health Care Plan) is necessary to be eligible for a Medicare Rebate. If you have Private Health Care Insurance or are prepared to pay the cost yourself, you do not need a referral.
If you wish for more information or to make an appointment face to face at our office in the Gold Coast or Online anywhere in Australia,
ring 0427795721 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Burleigh Waters, Gold Coast, Qld 4220