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Sleeping problems

Sleeping can be a problem for many. What types of sleep problems can we face?


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

Types of sleep problem

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.

Causes of sleeping problems

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 tips

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.

Sleeping aids

Some people find that they need a bit more help with their sleep problems and look for sleeping aids - remedies or techniques used to help overcome sleep problems. Types of sleeping aids include:

  • Sleeping Tablets – these are tablets prescribed by your doctor
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) remedies – these are conventional (synthetic) medicines available from your pharmacy without a prescription
  • Herbal remedies such as Valerian and Hops – an alternative to conventional medicine and becoming increasingly popular
  • Other therapies – these do not come in the form of a tablet capsule or tincture but examples include hypnotherapy and yoga.

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