Sleep problems are hugely common. It’s estimated that a third of us have insomnia and that nearly all of us will suffer with problems sleeping at some point in our lifetime.
This article takes you on a whistle stop tour of the problems you can encounter when good sleep goes bad. Find out the common causes of sleep problems and what you can do to get your sleep back on track.
The most common sleep problems are:
- Taking more than an hour to fall asleep
- Keep waking up during the night
- Waking up too early and not being able to fall back to sleep
Many people encounter problems sleeping because sleep is a complex process. Falling asleep requires you to feel suitably sleepy, have a quiet mind, and a comfortable relaxing environment to sleep in. Outside noise, mind chatter, not keeping to a steady sleep schedule are all common problems that can prevent you from sleeping.
For some quick solutions to the most common sleeping problems, see the article can’t sleep.
Sleep deprivation occurs when you don’t fulfill your need for sleep. This can be caused by:
- Not making time for sleep – Replacing sleep for work, studying, or partying
- Poor sleep quality – Sleep becomes unrefreshing regardless of how much you get
- Difficulty sleeping – Either by a short term sleep problem or long term insomnia
Not getting enough sleep causes a build up of what’s called sleep debt. You acquire sleep debt during the day and pay it off at night with sleep. Sleep deprivation results if you don’t pay off all your sleep debt, causing you to take the debt with you into the next day.
Common sleep deprivation problems include road accidents, reduced productivity, and lowered mood. Sleep deprivation had a part to play in some of the biggest man made disasters including Chernobyl, four mile island and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Maybe pilots falling asleep will be the cause of the next major disaster.
Insomnia is a sleep problem that recurs over a series of nights or even a number of years. Insomnia can be defined by:
- The length of time you have it for – Transient, acute or chronic
- Which part of the night it occurs – Onset, maintenance, or terminal
Common causes of insomnia include:
- Adjustment sleep disorder – Change in circumstance causing stress or bereavement
- Psychophysiologic insomnia – An overactive mind that won’t turn off at night
- Inadequate sleep hygiene – Bad sleeping habits that can cause insomnia
- A drug or substance – Taking caffeine, alcohol or nicotine before bed
- A medical condition – Also known as comorbid insomnia
Short term insomnia can sometimes go away by itself if what’s causing the insomnia will soon pass. Improving your sleep hygiene by implementing good sleep habits is the first cause of action for any insomnia problem. Taking sleeping pills is a tempting insomnia treatment but they are only suitable for very limited short term use.
If the insomnia persists, cognitive behavioral therapy is a comprehensive insomnia treatment that completely overhauls your sleep habits and gives you a range of clinically proven techniques to help you sleep better. It’s suitable for both short term and long term insomnia.
Oversleeping is a very common sleep problem, especially amongst teenagers. People who oversleep often feel as though their body has been wired to stay awake during the night and sleep during the day.
Oversleeping is commonly caused by not getting enough sleep during the night because of a messed up sleep schedule. It causes problems sleeping the next night, sometimes causing you to miss important appointments. You can experience extreme morning sleepiness if you’re forced out of bed.
Teenagers are most at risk from oversleeping because they’re biologically inclined to go to bed later in the night and wake up later in the day. It’s a very hard pattern to get out of and often gets worse over time.
Oversleeping can be cured by deciding upon your ideal sleep pattern and by developing a rock solid sleep schedule. For more on this, see the oversleeping article
A sleep disorder is a medical condition that in some way affects how you sleep. Sleep disorders can be categorized into three broad categories:
Parasomnias – Abnormal events and behaviors that happen while you’re asleep. These can include sleepwalking, sleep paralysis and night terrors.
Dyssomnias – Sleep disorders that some way affects the process of sleep. They include sleep apnea, narcolepsy and snoring.
Circadian rhythm disorders – Conditions that impact the timing of sleep such as jetlag, delayed sleep phase syndrome and shift work disorder.
For a list of sleep disorders along with their symptoms, causes and treatment, head over to the sleep disorder section of this website.
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If you’re unsure what could be causing your sleep problem, there are a number of free tests you can take on this website. They will help you find out:
- If you have a sleep problem
- If you’re a natural night owl or morning lark
- Whether your mood could be affecting your sleep
- Help discover the cause of your insomnia
To take one of these tests, head over to the sleep tests section.