How are you sleeping?
Insomnia affects 1 in 6 Australians, and almost 60% of us regularly experience at least one chronic sleep symptom (such as trouble falling asleep, not staying asleep, or waking in the early hours and not being able to fall back asleep).
In addition to feeling tired and grumpy the next day, not getting adequate sleep can affect your memory and ability to concentrate. Chronic sleep problems can also increase your risk of chronic medical issues such as high blood pressure and obesity, as well as taking a toll on your mental health.
If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, there are some behavioural and environmental factors that can be optimised to try to improve your sleep-wake cycle (also called your circadian rhythm), which are referred to as “sleep hygiene”. This includes having a regular sleep pattern, avoiding stimulants in the evenings (such as caffeine and nicotine), avoiding alcohol (it might make you feel sleepy, but it reduces the quality of your sleep), eating well and exercising (but not right before bed). For a full list of sleep hygiene tips and tricks please see this article.
If you have optimised your sleep hygiene but are still having trouble sleeping it may be time to book in to see your friendly GP. Sometimes trouble sleeping can be the side effect of a medication, or due to an underlying medical condition (such as a thyroid problem), so we may need to review your medications or order a blood test. If you are diagnosed with chronic insomnia, the best treatment available is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi). This involves working with a psychologist to change patterns in your thoughts and behaviours that may be contributing to your poor sleep. This therapy is safer and more effective than sleeping tablets, and your GP can provide a referral and advice around accessing this service.