Sleep problems

Most of us will experience a restless night at some point in our lives. Stress, temperature, even some food or drinks can all impact on 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 8 hours, it may be time to start looking at your sleep health. Particularly 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 over tiredness or stress can then lead to more sleepless nights, as well as anxiety around getting a better night’s sleep making it even harder to nod 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 for it 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 waking often in the night for short periods or waking in the middle of the night and being 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 allow them to fall back asleep. Whilst some might see this as useful, it is usually unwelcome in those suffering. Starting the day so early often leads to ‘crashing’ later in the morning as well as falling asleep earlier in the evening, creating a cycle that is hard to break.

Sleep issues and mental health

Sleep issues and mental well-being are very closely linked. A continued lack of sleep can affect your emotional wellbeing whilst certain mental health problems can cause problems falling or staying asleep. It’s no surprise that one of the most common complaints of people in treatment for a mental health disorder is trouble sleeping or always feeling tired.

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

On the other hand, some common mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety can cause troubles with sleeping. 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.

However, this link means that treating one issue often has a positive effect on the other.

How can CBT help with sleep issues?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you look at and understand how your thoughts and actions can affect the way that you feel or deal with certain situations. CBT has been proven incredibly effective in treating sleep issues and disorders by helping you deal with the route of the problem and promote positive thoughts and behaviors to improve your sleep health.

CBT has a strong focus in 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 recognize 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 behavioral aspect is about identifying any negative behaviors or lifestyle habits that may be impacting your sleep. Behaviors 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.

If you are in crisis, or need help dealing with one - do not use this site. For immediate help, please call the National Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text HOME to 741741.