Understanding Sleep Issues
Sleep issues come in many forms. They can range from simply feeling tired after sleeping, to not being able to get to sleep at all. Sleep is not just a ‘luxury’ to have if we have the time… it is a necessity. Although it’s common knowledge that sleep is necessary for physical recovery, the mental health benefits are rarely spoken about.
What is Normal Sleep?
It’s normal for adults to have around 7 – 9 hours of total sleep a day (naps included). For older adults, this is slightly reduced and often broken up into multiple blocks throughout the day.
For most people, it takes about 2 – 15 minutes to fall asleep (sometimes up to 30 minutes). Typically, then, we fall into a stage of deep, restorative sleep. This is where we recover from our day. As the night goes on, our brain activity fluctuates (like a rollercoaster – up and down). The nearer we get to morning, the lighter our sleep becomes. It’s normal for the average adult to wake 2 – 3 times in a night. Dreams often happen in these later stages (Rapid Eye Movement stage) of sleep. This stage of sleep is crucial for learning and keeping memories intact.
When we’re unable to get to sleep easily, this can become very distressing and create a cycle of frustration. If we have too many awakenings in the night or we stay up from being woken up, this can also lead to feeling unrefreshed and distressed. If we do get enough hours of sleep, but still wake up feeling groggy, then perhaps our quality isn’t where it needs to be.
How many people are affected by sleep issues?
According to the 2018 Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia, 39.8% of Australian adults experienced some form of inadequate sleep. That was approximately 7.4 million people that year. You're not alone!
Why is it so important to seek help?
Our sleep has a direct impact on how we function during the day – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of physical harm if we’re driving, working with machinery, or solely caring for infants/young children. It can also put us at increased risk of a variety of physical illnesses, e.g., heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity (according to the Australasian Sleep Association). When we improve our sleep experience, we can reduce the likelihood of our physical wellbeing being compromised.
It can result in lost productivity at work or have a negative impact on our ability to emotionally regulate during stressful situations. A lack of sleep can mean that we’re more irritable/anxious and may lash out at others more than usual. Sleep deprivation can lead to lower resilience in tackling everyday challenges, which can have flow-on effects and lead to more stress later on.
Signs and symptoms of sleep issues vary for everybody though may include:
Difficulty falling asleep
Waking up several times a night
Feeling tired after a full night of sleep
Struggling to concentrate at work
Worrying about getting to sleep
Procrastinating getting to bed
Feeling stressed during the day
Reacting slowly to things
Sleep has a direct impact on how we function during the day. Getting the right support can help improve sleep quality.
How can a Psychologist help?
Psychologists can provide you with a science-based tailored sleep plan to help you reach your sleep goals. These tried and tested strategies are evidence-based and can be incorporated in many ways into your lifestyle.
This in turn, will decrease the distress you feel when you’re not able to get an ideal night’s sleep and make it more likely that your body and mind will relax into sleep.
Psychologists can suggest many strategies to make it easier in the long run to have an overall better sleep experience. Simply armed with this understanding, many clients will experience lower distress as they place less emphasis on an ideal nights’ sleep.
What therapy or techniques will my Psychologist use?
Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is an approach which looks at the relationship between our thoughts and feelings in relation to sleep. The more we worry/stress about our sleep, the less likely it is we’ll fall asleep and therefore, the more distress we become. This can turn into a vicious cycle which CBT-I can break. Sleep hygiene tips are also provided to clients with appropriate background so that clients can choose which strategies would most fit their lifestyle.
Sleep is a critical part in human functioning. Its impacts spread across all elements of our day-to-day lives – physical, mental and emotional abilities/resilience. When we neglect our sleep or life gets in the way, sleep deprivation can make us struggle with seemingly basic tasks. If we prioritise our sleep and start working on building small sleep habits, the improvements will be felt over time.
If you're ready to start understanding sleep better, learn how to build helpful sleep habits, and improve your quality of sleep, reach out to us over the phone or email.
For more information or to book an appointment with one of our experienced Psychologists, call the team at Reimagine Psychology Melbourne on (03) 8330 5588 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.