Sleep problems

Most of us will experience a restless night at some point in our lives. Stress, temperature and even some types of food and drink can affect our ability to get a good night’s sleep. However, if you find yourself regularly lying awake as the morning ticks nearer, or fighting the fatigue even after you’ve had a full eight hours, it may be time to start looking at your sleep health. This is particularly the case if your lack of sleep begins to negatively impact your everyday life.

Sleep problems can feel like a never-ending vicious cycle. A poor night’s sleep leaves you tired and lacking energy during the day. Sleep deprivation also affects our mood, often making us feel grumpy and more irritable. This overtiredness or stress can then lead to more sleepless nights, as well as to anxiety around getting a better night’s sleep, which can make it even harder to drop off. When this continues over a period of time, it can begin to take a toll on your energy levels, mood and even general health.

Types of sleep problems

Sleep problems affect people in different ways. You may find that you regularly experience just one of these sleep issues or possibly a mixture over time. Either way, the most common sleep complaints are:

  • Trouble falling asleep

    We all know someone who can fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. Most of us wish we could. Sleep professionals recommend that a good, healthy time to fall asleep is anywhere up to 30 minutes. Yet some people find that it can take much longer than this to drift off, sometimes lying awake for hours and suffering as a resut when the alarm goes off.

  • Night time waking

    Some people have no trouble falling asleep but find they can’t achieve a particularly good night’s sleep once they do, either because they wake up repeatedly in the night for short periods or because they wake up in the middle of the night and are then unable to fall back asleep for hours.

  • Early waking

    Some people find that no matter what they do, their bodies seem to wake them up before dawn and won’t let them to fall back asleep. Whilst some might see this as useful, it is usually unwelcome in those it affects. Starting the day so early often leads sufferers to ‘crash’ later in the morning and to fall asleep earlier in the evening, creating a cycle that is hard to break.

Sleep issues and mental health

Sleep issues and mental wellbeing are very closely linked. A continued lack of sleep can affect your emotional wellbeing, while certain mental health problems can cause problems falling or staying asleep. It is no surprise that one of the most common issues that people being treated for a mental health disorder complain about is trouble sleeping or always feeling tired.

Sleep helps our brains and bodies to recharge. While we are asleep we go through a series of sleep cycles and our brains run through a number of processes that are necessary to help us function effectively during the day. Without sleep, our ability to think rationally and to regulate our emotions is compromised, potentially increasing the effects of a mental health disorder or our risk of developing one.

At the same time, some common mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety can cause sleep problems. People with anxiety may spend a long time struggling to fall asleep due to excessive worrying, while many people with depression also experience insomnia or sleeping too much.

The link between mental health and sleep issues means that treating one issue often has a positive effect on the other.

How can CBT help with sleep issues?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you look at and understand how your thoughts and actions affect the way that you feel or deal with certain situations. CBT has been proven to be very effective at treating sleep issues and disorders, as it helps you deal with the root of the problem and promotes positive thoughts and behaviours.

CBT has a strong focus on developing good relaxation techniques that can help relieve tension and minimise sleep anxiety, preparing you for sleep. It will also help you identify any changes you can make to improve your sleeping habits.

The cognitive aspect of CBT teaches you to recognise and change any negative thoughts or beliefs that may be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. By using techniques such as thought challenging you can work on replacing negative thoughts with more positive and realistic ones.

The behavioural aspect of CBT is about identifying any negative behaviours or lifestyle habits that may be impacting your sleep. Behaviours such as watching TV in bed or drinking caffeine too late in the day could all be affecting your ability to drift off and achieve quality sleep.

CBT teaches you new techniques that can be used in many different scenarios and can help you develop better sleeping habits that can be used for life.

Am I eligible for online CBT?

Our service is free for NHS patients in many areas of the UK.

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