What is a sleep disorder?
Sleep disorders are conditions which prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. They tend to be caused by either emotional or physical problems (sometimes both).
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 can lead to a long-term sleeping disorder.
Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder, and whilst it can sometimes be caused by physical issues, it often has its roots in psychological issues.
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.
Common sleep disorders
- Insomnia – difficulties falling asleep and/or staying asleep
- 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.
- 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.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Aches and pains in the body
- Dry eyes
- Appetite changes
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Experiencing exhaustion throughout the day
- Increased irritability
- 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
After a careful medical consultation and sleep tests, you may receive psychological, behavioural, and possibly pharmacological treatment to help you feel more refreshed, rested and sleep better.
We will start by offering you an initial in-person consultation which would dive into the specific details of your sleep problems and define the goals for further assessment and treatment. It would include understanding your sleep-wake pattern and biorhythm, as well as exploring your overall well-being.
Based on your initial assessment and goals, some investigations may be required, such as blood tests and sleep tests. We offer the full range of sleep testing, including overnight polysomnography. Most sleep tests would be performed at your home, you would not be required to come to a sleep laboratory.
A personalised, tailored treatment plan would start with advice on good sleep hygiene and include a range of psychological treatments, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i) or Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), as well as lifestyle modifications and bright light treatment. Medication may be recommended, this could include herbal, natural remedies or prescription drugs.
Your treatment plan would be coordinated with your other clinicians or doctors, as may be required.
Frequently asked questions
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is the most effective, evidence-based treatment for insomnia and it can also be delivered in a group setting. Likewise, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can also be a helpful approach for dealing with sleeping difficulties.