Sleep Problems

young man in bed with eyes opened suffering insomnia and sleep disorder thinking about his problem

Waking up tired?  Have a difficult time falling asleep at the right time?  Do you fall asleep during the day?  If you have answered yes to one or all of these questions, then consider that you may have a sleeping problem.

Having occasional bouts of late night sleeping and morning sleepiness do not mean that you have a sleeping problem.  The chronic inability to get a good night’s rest however qualifies for a sleeping disorder; more so if this sleep inability starts to impact negatively on your day-to-day life.

Lack of sleep can affect your moods, energy levels, and cognitive functions.  You may start to become depressed, irritable, forgetful, and always exhausted.  Together with diet and exercise, sleep is an integral component of optimal human health.  Take one of these legs off from the diet-exercise-sleep triad and you get an individual with an imbalanced state of being.  Adequate rest is vital for the maintenance of both physical and mental health.

Common Types of Sleeping Problems

Sleeping problems must be addressed if one is to maintain that balance.  Sleep problems come in many forms and it is good to be aware of many of them.  Here are three common examples of sleep disorders:

Insomnia

Insomnia tops the common sleep problem list as about one third of the British population are insomniacs, according to The Guardian.  Insomnia is so common that the issue is affecting the country’s productivity and degrading overall British health.

Insomnia is a condition in which one has difficulty falling asleep at the right time or getting back to sleep when awakened at night.  Insomniacs may also find themselves frequently waking up at night and experiencing difficulty in getting right back to sleep.  Insomnia is a problem because the sleep deprived sufferers are inclined to fall asleep in the daytime, often during their supposed productive hours, a bad tendency which impacts their day-to-day work, school, and family life.

Chronic insomnia has often been linked to depression and anxiety.  Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)  has proven to be effective in breaking the cycle of poor sleep by modifying thoughts and feelings that give rise to stress which cause insomnia.

Sleep Apnoea

Sleep Apnoea is characterized by chronic heavy snoring and breathing pauses of about 10-20 seconds.  This condition affects the sleeper’s breathing pattern so that the sleeper is often jolted out of their natural sleeping rhythms.  A person with sleep apnoea spends most of the night in light sleep and hardly any in deep REM stage where sleep is most restorative.

Because those afflicted with sleep apnoea are chronically sleep deprived, they often experience these accompanying symptoms:

  • Sleepiness during the day.  This is dangerous because one may be falling asleep while driving or working with heavy machinery.  Chronic sleepiness at work impairs productivity and job security.                                                                                                    sleep on the job
  • Irritability
  • Severe mood swings
  • Personality changes
  • Sore throat and a dry mouth first thing in the morning
  • Waking up many times to urinate
  • Impaired cognitive functions.  Have difficulty learning, remembering, and concentrating.
  • Morning migraines

Sleep apnoea needs medical intervention but it is a treatable condition.

Oversleeping

Here’s a classic case where too much of a good thing becomes bad.  Hypersomnia or oversleeping is the polar opposite of most sleeping disorders as this entails getting too much sleep instead of less; yet as a chronic condition, it is cause for concern.

The average or normal beneficial sleeping duration is 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night for adults.  Should you be averaging more than this, you may be oversleeping.  Chronic oversleepers feel extremely sleepy and lethargic throughout the day.  Napping does not refresh them.  Hypersomniacs often experience low energy levels, tiredness, anxiety, and forgetfulness.  Despite their long hours of sleep, oversleepers crave more sleep and exhibit the symptoms of the sleep deprived.

Oversleeping has been linked to other medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease.  Studies have also discovered that hypersomniacs have significantly shorter life spans than those who sleep normally.

Sleep Problems and Mental Health

When sleeping difficulties become chronic, these problems can escalate to become mental health problems.  If the sleep problem is a by-product of a mental health issue, the lack of sleep or too much thereof may exacerbate the originating mental health disorder.  This may seem like a chicken-and-egg thing; but the crucial thing here is that sleep problems must be dealt with as soon as possible.

Constant sleep issues exhaust a person both physically and mentally so that he may experience:

  • Deterioration of self-esteem — Fatigue can undermine an individual’s ability to face day-to-day decisions and challenges.  Forgetfulness, inability to focus, learning difficulties and other cognitive issues may degrade his opinion of himself, diminishing his ability to cope and opening the doors for depression and anxiety to step in.
  • Loneliness — Because of exhaustion from inadequate rest, the sleep deprived can lose interest in social activities, causing a self-imposed social isolation.  Loneliness can further escalate into mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
  • Negativity — Chronic tiredness may engender negative thought processes such as hopelessness and irrational thinking which may morph to or exacerbate mental health problems as well.
  • Psychotic episodes —  Sleep deprivation may trigger mania, psychosis, or paranoia in people already suffering from a psychotic disorder

Treatments

Sleep clinics and talking treatments such as CBT, stimulus control therapy, and relaxation therapies are common types of treatment.  Talking treatments given for free by the NHS are available; however, waiting lines may stretch too long for comfort.  Alternatively, a private therapist may be more of a help.  If you decide on one, be sure to check that he or she is properly trained and accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP).

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