Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we can now offer all our consultations and therapy sessions online

Call us for advice 020 3935 8691
or Contact us

Sleep Disorders

What is a sleep disorder?

Sleep disorders are condition which negatively impact the quality of your sleep, and they tend to be caused by either emotional or physical problems (sometimes both).

Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder, and whilst it can sometimes be caused by physical ailments, it typically persists due to an underlying psychological issue.

The overriding symptom of insomnia is the inability to sleep well – for a period of one month or more. This might mean difficulty falling asleep, but can also manifest as the inability to stay asleep (waking multiple times throughout the night) or waking up very early and being unable to fall asleep again.

Most of us will encounter difficulties sleeping at some point in our lives, and it usually happens following a temporary period of stress. However, most people find their sleeping patterns finally settle down again when life returns to normal. If sleeping problems persist, it might lead to a long-term sleeping disorder.

The good news is that sleep disorders can be treated and managed effectively using a combination of medication, mindfulness – and therapy.

Some common sleep disorders are:

Hypersomnolence disorder – excessive sleepiness and difficulty waking up (even when getting sufficient sleep).

Narcolepsy – excessive daytime sleepiness and “sleep attacks” usually occurring several times a week.

Hyperventilation – exhaling more than you inhale.

Parasomnia – experiencing abnormal events whilst sleeping.

Restless leg syndrome – frequent awakenings and difficulty falling asleep due to pain, relieved by moving the leg.

Signs you have a sleep disorder 

Not everyone experiences sleep disorders in the same way or to the same degree. Although not all of the following will apply to you, some of the most common symptoms are listed below.

Physiological Symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Aches and pains in the body
  • Dry eyes
  • Appetite changes

Psychological Symptoms

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Experiencing exhaustion throughout the day
  • Increased irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Behavioural Symptoms

  • Struggling to fall asleep at night
  • Frequent awakenings throughout the night
  • Waking up extremely early in the morning

Therapy for sleep disorders – treating sleep disorders 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) centres around the belief that our thoughts and beliefs about the world impact the way we feel, and respond to situations. CBT will help you recognise and challenge negative thoughts which might be exacerbating your symptoms so you can replace them with healthier ways of thinking.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MCBT)

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MCBT) can be carried out in one-on-sessions or in a group setting. Mindfulness is the practice of being present – learning to simply observe thoughts without attaching meaning to them. This type of therapy combines mindfulness techniques with CBT, teaching you how to observe your thoughts with the goal of creating new, more effective ways of thinking.

To find out more about which approach to therapy might be best for you, contact us here or call 020 3930 1437 for a free phone consultation.

Sleep statistics in the UK 

  • 37% of people are dissatisfied with their sleep and would like to sleep better.
  • 32% of young people aged 16-24 say that they sleep very well, compared to just 21% of 45-54 year olds.
  • 10 – 15% of people suffer from chronic sleeping difficulties like insomnia.
  • 19% of people go to bed after midnight.
  • 33% of people sleep 5 – 6 hours, 30% sleep for 6 – 7 hours, and around 22% sleep for 7 – 8 hours.
  • Only 1 in 10 people have consulted a medical professional about their difficulties sleeping.
  • 31% of people have taken medication in an attempt to relieve poor sleep.
  • Worryingly, 16% of people use alcohol as a sedative to fall asleep (despite the fact that alcohol decreases the quality of sleep).

Common sleeping myths

‘If you wake up during the night, you’re not sleeping well’

Waking up a few times in the night is perfectly normal. In fact, we do so because of evolutionary reasons in order to assess our surroundings. Even those of us without sleeping difficulties wake up between 5 – 15 times each night.

‘We need 8 hrs of sleep for a good night’s sleep’

Contrary to popular belief, 8 hours is not necessarily the length of time to strive for. Most people range between needing 6 – 9 hours of sleep, and our need for sleep generally decreases with age.

‘Sleeping pills are effective’

Although sleeping pills can be effective in the short-term, the efficacy of sleeping pills decreases over time.

‘A glass of red wine helps increase sleepiness’

Alcohol is a sedative so it can make you feel drowsy. However, processing alcohol whilst sleeping has a negative impact on both your quantity and quality of deep sleep.

Sleep self help 

Self-care comes in many forms so it’s all about finding what works for you. Treatment and recovery can take time, but there are a few steps you can take right away:

  • Try mindfulness and meditation. Mental relaxation allows our mind to settle, slow down and prepare for sleep.
  • If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep, try leaving your bedroom and doing a benign task e.g. the washing up. You want to associate your bed with quality sleep as much as possible.
  • Sleep hygiene tips:
    • Try not to eat or exercise too close to bedtime, that way your body can prepare to slow down.
    • Make sure only to use your bedroom for sleep and intimacy with your partner. Remove distractions such as TVs etc.
    • Try to have a regular sleep routine. This will train your body to know when bedtime is approaching.

Recommended reading – books to help you sleep 

  • Why We Sleep (Matthew Walker, 2017)
  • The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It (Chris Winter, 2017)
  • Say Good Night to Insomnia (Gregg Jacobs,1998)

Podcasts and audible guides


Sleep by Headspace. Mindful sleep-focused audio files which you can play prior to going to sleep. Try listening to one of their sleep podcasts as a part of your bedtime routine.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock.An alarm clock and sleep tracker so that you can understand how well you’re sleeping according to your circadian cycles. It also includes timed podcasts which you can play when you go to bed, preparing you for sleep e.g. sound of rain.

To find out more about which approach to therapy might be best for you, contact us here or call 020 3930 1437 for a free phone consultation.