Sleep Disorders

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.

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
consultation taking notes

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

Sleep can be seen as a barometer for our psychological and emotional health. For this reason, if you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep, it may indicate that there are other areas of your life you are not addressing. Either way, sleep is incredibly important for our daily functioning which is why it is always worth digging deeper to understand the cause. During the assessment process, we will aim to get an understanding of the history of your difficulties in order to decide which intervention you might most benefit from.

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.

It is very common to experience difficulties sleeping when going through a stressful period but these difficulties will usually resolve when life returns to normal. If you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, these difficulties will be more pervasive and persistent. An assessment will help us work out the severity of your symptoms. However, sleep disturbance alone is enough of an indication that it would be helpful to get support.

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Dr Elena Touroni

Dr Elena Touroni is a skilled and experienced consultant psychologist with a track record of delivering high-quality services for individuals with all common emotional difficulties and those with a diagnosis of personality disorder. She is experienced in service design and delivery, the management of multi-disciplinary teams, organisational consultancy, and development and delivery of both national and bespoke training to providers in the statutory and non-statutory sector.

Having obtained a first degree in Psychology (BSc) at the American College of Greece, she completed her doctoral training at the University of Surrey. Dr Touroni is highly experienced in the assessment and treatment of depression, anxiety, substance misuse, personality disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, adjustment disorder and relationship difficulties. She works with both individuals and couples and can offer therapy in English and Greek.

Dr Touroni has held a variety of clinical and managerial positions including as Head of Service in the NHS. Further she has held academic positions for the University of Surrey and the Institute of Mental Health lecturing on specialist postgraduate Masters and Doctorate programmes.

She is trained in several specialist therapeutic approaches such as schema therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based approaches and Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT). As well as holding a variety of NHS positions, Dr. Touroni is the co-founder of a private practice in Central London that has been a provider of psychological therapy for all common emotional difficulties including personality disorder since 2002. She is the founder and one of two directors of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.