Is poor sleep affecting your work and lifestyle?
- Sleep deprivation can affect your performance at work and home
- Insomnia or disturbed sleep can be caused by a variety of factors.
- You may need further assistance from a GP if any of these apply to you.
It’s not unusual to have difficulty sleeping from time to time, but when it becomes a habit, you should seek professional help. Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on how you function at work and home.
Sleep deprivation that is chronic can have a significant impact on your health.
We’ve highlighted a few different reasons for insomnia and disturbed sleep.
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It’s not always obvious which comes first: Insomnia or broken sleep is linked to depression. Depression is believed to disrupt sleep by disrupting body clocks that keep sleep in check, but chronic insomnia can also increase your risk of depression.
It’s possible that we become so anxious to get to sleep when we haven’t slept well for a few nights, the anxiety keeps us awake. Sleep anxiety can be reduced by accepting that waking up is normal and re-framing your thoughts. Relaxation exercises may help too.
Sleep apnoea occurs when the walls of the mouth and throat close during sleep. This reduces the oxygen flow to the body. Listening to someone snore and breathe can help you identify sleep apnoea. They may have short pauses lasting a few seconds or minutes. After a minute, the person will snore and gasp. They may also briefly wake up as they struggle to breath. The associated fatigue during the day can be dangerous if sleep apnoea is not treated promptly.
Sleep disturbances are caused by menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes. Our body temperature must drop to fall asleep and remain asleep. You can prepare strategies that will help you cool off quickly so you can get back to bed if you are too hot. You can keep a fan or a bowl of ice water in your bedroom.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
Melatonin, the sleep hormone, must rise in order to make us feel sleepy. Some people’s levels of melatonin do not rise until later in the evening, which makes it hard to fall asleep before midnight.
Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome
It is similar to the previous problem, except the person feels sleepy in the early evenings, sometimes even before six. It may cause them to awaken in the wee hours of the night and not be able to fall back asleep.
Restless Legs Syndrome
This syndrome can cause uncomfortable sensations to occur in the arms and legs. These sensations can be described as prickly, painful, crawling or tingling. They may also cause an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. Self-help methods and medications may be used to treat this problem.
Periodic Limb Motions in Sleep
Involuntary leg movements can be caused by periodic limb movements during sleep, such as flexing toes, bending knees or hip twitching. It can disrupt the sleep of a person who has PLMS, or anyone else sharing the bed. It can sometimes be treated with a reduction in alcohol, caffeine or smoking as well as certain medications.
Sleep problems can be treated by seeking help.
You should seek the help of your GP if you have been experiencing sleepless nights over a period longer than a couple weeks, or relying on sleeping pills to sleep for more than two weeks. Your doctor may offer advice or refer you to an expert sleep specialist or psychologist depending on the issue.
The information provided here should only be used as an aid and not as a replacement for medical or other professional advice. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your health, we recommend you speak to your doctor or another qualified health professional.
Bartlett D Paisley L Desai A. Insomnia: diagnosis and management. Medicine Today. 2006; 7(8).
Berk M. Sleep and depression — theory and practice. Australian Family Physician. 2009; 38(5): 302–304.
beyondblue. Sleeping well [Online; accessed Jul 2016] Available from: http://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au
Breus M J. WebMD. Sleep habits: More important than you think [Online; last updated Mar 2006; accessed Jul 2016] Available from: www.webmd.com