Insomnia & Sleep Problems

Insomnia is when you regularly have problems with your sleeping. You might find it extremely hard to fall or stay asleep which can make you feel tired as soon as you wake up. About 1/3 of the population suffers from sleep problems and it is very common in elderly people. Click the button below to go to the NHS Sleep Assessment Tool.

Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

There may not always be an obvious cause to sleep problems but here are some common causes which affect people's sleep:

  • Environmental factors (noise, light getting into your room, uncomfortable bed, feeling too hot or cold)
  • Lifestyle habits (irregular sleep routine, eating late at night, not exercising enough or exercising too close to bedtime)
  • Overactive mind (worrying about events in your life such as your job or family)
  • Mental health problems (stress, anxiety, depression)
  • Jet lag or shift work
  • Smoking, alcohol or caffeinated drinks
  • Some medicines can affect your sleep (anti-depressants or epilepsy medicine)
  • Age (the older you get the more likely you will have sleep problems)
  • Physical health problems (menopause, heart disease, asthma, overactive thyroid)

You may be diagnosed with insomnia or a sleep problem if you suffer from one or more of the following symptoms:

  • You find it difficult to fall asleep
  • You lie awake for long periods at night time
  • You wake up multiple times during the night
  • You wake up early in the morning and cannot get back to sleep
  • You do not feel refreshed when you wake up
  • You find it hard to nap despite being tired
  • Feeling tired and irritable during the day and problems concentrating

There are many methods of trying to treat insomnia and sleep problems. If you want to try and treat the problem yourself at home, try the following:

  • Start a sleeping routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. Do not go to bed unless you are tired.
  • Relax for at least one hour before you go to bed.
  • Make sure that your bedroom is dark. Use thick curtains, an eye mask and ear plugs if necessary.
  • Exercise throughout the day.
  • Make sure your mattress and bedding are comfortable.

Try to cut down or stop the following to try and regulate sleep problems:

  • Don't smoke, drink alcohol or tea/coffee at least 6 hours before going to bed.
  • Don't eat big meals late at night.
  • Don't exercise at least 4 hours  before bed.
  • Don't watch television or use devices before bed as the bright light makes your more awake.
  • Don't nap during the day.
  • Don't drive when you feel sleepy.

Sleep problems and insomnia can have severe effects on mental health. If you are struggling with your sleep and the tips above have not helped then visit your local pharmacy advice. They may give you some sleeping aids but these can have some negative side effects such as drowsiness the next day or being unable to drive.

If you have tried the above options and sleeping aids then you should visit your doctor if:

  • Changing your sleeping habits has not worked.
  • You have been having trouble sleeping for months.
  • Your sleep problems are affecting your daily life.