Sleep Problems and Insomnia

Written on 03/07/2023
Sophie Kirk

As human beings, we need to sleep. The amount of sleep we need varies depending on our age and our general metabolism, but generally the average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. If you’re constantly feeling tired during the day, then you’re probably not getting enough sleep.

At their core, sleep problems and insomnia are conditions that change the way you sleep. If left untreated, sleep problems can not just make you feel tired – they can affect your overall health, safety and your quality of life. And if you become sleep deprived, you can be at risk of even more serious health problems


What Are Sleep Problems And Insomnia?


When we talk about sleep problems, we’re really talking about a broad spectrum of issues – and all of us have experienced them at least once in our lives. Sleep problems can range from struggling to fall asleep, or stay asleep for long periods, to sleeping too much, or even not being able to sleep at all. There are also a number of medical conditions that can significantly impact sleep, like sleep apnoea (abnormal breathing patterns when you’re asleep) restless leg syndrome (a sleep movement disorder) and narcolepsy (periods of extreme tiredness during the day, and even falling asleep suddenly while performing a task).

Insomnia is one of the more extreme form of sleeping problem. It’s when you regularly have problems sleeping, and can often lead to people not sleeping for days at a time, or sleeping for such short periods that they get no meaningful rest. Insomnia can sap your energy level, make you feel depressed and irritable, and can have serious impacts on your health, work performance and quality of life. Insomnia can be a short-term reaction to an event, or it can be a more chronic issue.


How Can They Manifest?


Sleeping problems tend to manifest in not being able to sleep. This might sound simple, but the reality can be that you struggle to fall asleep, spending hours tossing and turning, or that you fall asleep easily but wake up often, so never end up entering REM sleep and getting the restorative rest you need. Or you could go to sleep and stay asleep fine, but wake up very early and not be able to get back to sleep at all. 

Insomnia, however, has a more clear-cut pattern of symptoms. If you recognise any of the following as regular occurrences for you, then you may be suffering from insomnia. Most adults at some point will experience short-term insomnia, which can last for days or weeks, usually as the result of a traumatic event. But some people suffer from chronic insomnia that can last for months. If you:

  • Find it hard to go to sleep.
  • Wake up several times during the night.
  • Lie awake at night.
  • Wake up early and can’t go back to sleep.
  • Still feel tired after waking up.
  • Find it hard to nap during the day, even though you’re tired.
  • Feel tired and irritable during the day.
  • Find it difficult to concentrate during the day because you’re tired.

You may be suffering from insomnia. 


How Can This Make You Feel?


Of course, the natural answer is that sleep problems can make you feel tired during the day. This in turn can lead to irritability and difficulty concentrating, and again is something almost all of us have felt when we just didn’t get a good night’s sleep. But when those bad nights sleep add up, it can be a lot worse. Some of the earlier and more common feelings this can cause include depression, anxiety, paranoia, impulsive behaviour and even suicidal thoughts, all due to sheer exhaustion.

If left untreated too long, then sleep problems and insomnia can lead to sleep deprivation, which can impact absolutely every area of your body. For example, chronic sleep deprivation can cause:

  • Memory issues
  • Trouble with thinking and concentration
  • Mood changes
  • Increased risk of accidents and injuries
  • Weakened immune system
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk for diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Low sex drive
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Poor balance

All of these things can have a negative impact on how you feel, and your mood. That’s one of the reasons we take sleep problems so seriously – because they can become a trigger for all sorts of far worse issues.


Why Do They Happen In The First Place?


More general or sporadic problems sleeping can be caused by all sorts of things, from having too much caffeine before bed to stress, anxiety or bad sleep hygiene. Unfortunately, the causes for more severe sleep problems like insomnia are also caused by similar things, so it can be difficult to pin down the exact cause. But a few of the most common causes for sleeping problems and insomnia are:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Noise
  • Room temperature – too hot or too cold
  • Uncomfortable beds
  • Alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
  • Recreational drugs
  • Jet lag
  • Shift work
  • Bereavement

Thankfully, most of these issues can be treated and managed. While the best option is to identify the root cause of the problem, sometimes the best we can do is manage the symptoms. If you are struggling why not try to sleep tools in Melp, simply go to the SEARCH section and serach sleep or insomnia to bring up a range of tools you can try.