Sleep problems come near the top of health issues that prompt web searches.
An increasing number of people find that getting a good night’s sleep can be a real pain. Estimates of the number of people suffering from sleeping problems vary:
- Some studies suggest that up to 40% of people complain of having ‘sleep problems’
- Other studies indicate that between 23% and 34% of people suffer from problems sleeping including insomnia.
Whatever the true figure is, it is clear that many people around us feel that they can’t sleep or have problems sleeping well.
Sleep problems are different from sleep disorders which are medical conditions that can affect your sleep, such as sleep apnoea. This page discusses sleep problems – generally accepted as arising out of non-medical conditions
In general, people experience three patterns of sleeping problems:
Difficulty getting to sleep - this is probably the most common. With normal sleep, you should be unconscious well within 30 minutes. However, some people find that it can take a few hours to fall asleep but once this is achieved, the quality of sleep is good
Poor quality sleep - on the other hand, there are those who have no problem getting to sleep but are light sleepers, waking up often with the slightest noise. Once awake, they have difficult falling back to sleep
Waking up early - this may or may not be a problem. Some people enjoy waking up at the crack of dawn to get on with their daily lives, uninterrupted by others. However, others who wake up early could suffer from low mood or depression.
Problems with sleep can be caused by a large number of factors. Despite this variety, they can in general be placed into two categories:
- Lifestyle changes – these cover many factors from the environment in which you sleep in, the amount of stress you are coping with to your age. Having a new-born baby is definitely a change in lifestyle and is a common cause of sleep deprivation
- Minor medical conditions – there are a number of medical conditions which could prevent you from sleeping well, ranging from a blocked nose to menopausal symptoms, having an enlarged prostate and pain.
Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe a set of steps you can take to promote good sleeping habits. Making some simple changes to your surroundings or your lifestyle could help you sleep better at night. These will include:
- Making yourself as comfortable and relaxed as possible
- Dealing with distractions
- Quietening your mind
- Exercising your mind
- Settling into a sleep routine.
Many people look to herbal remedies as an alternative to prescription medicines or over-the-counter sleeping aids. These have become increasingly popular and are available from your local or high street health food store and pharmacy.
Such herbal remedies include:
- Valerain herb – this is perhaps the most popular herb used to aid sleep. It can be used on its own, but is often combined with other herbs such as Passion Flower or Hops. One example is Sleeplessness and Insomnia Relief containing extracts of freshly harvested valerian root and hops. It comes in the form of a liquid tincture and should not leave you feeling drowsy the next day
- Chamomile – this is often used as a tea to help relax the body and induce sleep
- Lavender Essential Oil – this is very popular as an aromatherapy remedy. The scent from a few drops placed on your pillow can help to calm your body and mind.
A sleep diary is a record of an individual's sleeping and waking times with related information, usually over a period of several weeks.
In addition to being a useful tool for health care practitioners in the diagnosis of sleep problems, a sleep diary can help make individuals more aware of the parameters affecting their sleep.
This data alone can help people pin point factors favouring good sleep.
Click here to download your FREE sleep diary