Insomnia (Poor Sleep)

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia means poor sleep. About one third of adults do not get as much sleep as they would like.  Poor sleep can mean:-

  • Not being able to get off to sleep
  • Waking up too early
  • Waking for long periods in the night
  • Not feeling refreshed after a night’s sleep

As many as one in three people can have some difficulty with sleeping.  However, there are many things you can do to help yourself.  For example, simple things like winding down before bedtime, avoiding certain foods and drinks, and a bedtime routine can help.  Further ways to promote sleep in more difficult cases include relaxation techniques, regular exercise and certain psychological therapies.  Sleeping tablets are not the best way to help with sleep problems because you can get addicted to them and they often stop working if you take them regularly.

Causes of Insomnia

Poor sleep may develop for no apparent reason.  However, there are a number of possible causes which include some of the following:

  • stress, anxiety or depression
  • sleep apnoea (occurs sometimes in people who snore or are obese)
  • temporary problems (jet lag, strange bed, new baby)
  • other illnesses (leg cramps, breathlessness, indigestion, cough, itch, hot flushes)
  • stimulants (alcohol, caffeine, nicotine)
  • street drugs (cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine)
  • prescribed medicines (antidepressants, steroids, beta-blockers, painkillers containing caffeine)

How Can I Sleep Better?

  • Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol, especially in the hours before bedtime
  • Avoid heavy meals or strenuous exercise shortly before going to bed
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day
  • Regular daytime exercise helps you feel more relaxed and tired at bedtime

It is often helpful to understand that short periods of waking each night are normal.  Some people are reassured about this and so do not become anxious when they find themselves awake in the night.  Also, remember that worry about poor sleep can itself make things worse.  It is common to have a few bad nights if you have a period of stress, anxiety or worry.  This is often just for a short time and a normal sleep pattern often resumes after a few days.

See a doctor if you feel that illness or medication is causing poor sleep.  Treating any underlying condition that is causing the problem, if possible, can help to promote sleep.  In particular, depression and anxiety are common causes of poor sleep and can often be treated.

Do stay healthy, we at PSMAS value your health!