Sleep Matters Insomnia Solutions
Are you missing out on sleep?
It’s sleep awareness week, so we decided we talked to sleep expert Dr Melissa Ree from the Sleep Matters Clinic to find out about common sleep disorders, their symptoms and how they can be treated.
If you just can’t fall asleep no matter how tired you are, or your body clock just doesn’t want to match up with your busy work day, there may be more going on with your body that you realise- and there is a solution to fix the cloud of sleepiness affecting your day.
Approximately one third of Australian adults report that they have difficulty sleeping, and 10% of the population have the clinical disorder of Insomnia. Dr Ree says that while there have been advances in treating chronic insomnia, it is a condition that is not often identified or treated. Even when it is detected and properly diagnosed, sufferers are more likely to receive treatments of questionable safety and effectiveness rather than treatments with a substantial evidence base.
So What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is the experience of poor sleep which often occurs after a stressful life event or illness, and will be experiences by most people at some point in their life. These usually only last for short bouts once the stress has been resolved, and once the person has a clear understanding of why their sleep had deteriorated. Insomnia disorder however is different in a number of ways:
- It occurs chronically for several nights a week
- It remains even once the triggering stress or illness resolves
- It feels out of control
- It is associated with negative long term effects on your health
Although Insomnia can occur on its own, it occurs most commonly alongside stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, or illness. Although it may be present among these other disorders, it is not just a symptom, and must be treated and managed as a separate issue. However, treating insomnia may help improve the treatment of other mental health issues such as depression.
Other than the debilitating frustration and desperation that comes from not be able to sleep, insomnia can also affect your work performance, result in accidents, trigger depression and diminish your quality of life. If the only thing keeping you going is copious amounts of coffee it is best you get checked out!
Related Sleep Disorders
Left untreated, not only can it affect your life in the ways mentioned above, but it can also lead to other sleeping disorders such as nightmare disorder and circadian rhythm disorder.
Having an occasional nightmare is normal, but when you experience these fear inducing dreams 3 or more times a week, you may be suffering from nightmare disorder. Stress, drugs, alcohol and medication (or withdrawal from) can cause an increase in their frequency and intensity, and it can often take a long time to fall back to sleep after experiencing these dreams because your body is so worked up.
Circadian Rhythm disorders on the other hand occur when a person’s internal biological clock does not match their external environment. The brain releases a chemical called ‘melatonin’ to make us feel tired, and we feel awake when the brain switches off the release of this chemical. The brain of someone suffering from circadian rhythm disorder releases and shuts off these chemicals at times that don't match up with the usual schedule. This results in either extreme night owls; who can’t sleep until 1 am or later and only wake in the late morning, or extreme early birds; who can’t stay up past 8 or 9 pm and wake at 3 am to 5 am in the morning.
Why Sleeping Pills Aren't the Answer
Unfortunately, 95 out of 100 patients who report sleeping difficulties to their GP are given sleeping pills as a solution. Dr Ree says that although these can effectively get poor sleep back on track for a couple of days, they are only a short term solution.
Problems can also arise from their use such as dependence, building up a tolerance to the drug and experiencing a groggy ‘hangover’ in the morning. Worst of all, sleeping pills inhibit you from getting a deep sleep. While they do help you get some sleep, it may worsen the quality of sleep you are getting.
As sleeping pills don’t treat the cause of Insomnia, it often returns once medication is stopped. They can however be used successfully when combined with therapy.
This is where the Sleep Matters team comes in. Their team of six health professionals have experience and training working with insomnia, nightmare disorder and circadian rhythm disorder, working with children as young as six, all the way up through the age spectrum.
The recommended first line treatment is a behavioural and psychological treatment called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). Although it is a bit of a mouthful to say, it is the treatment with the most evidence behind it- yet only 5 per cent of sufferers are receiving it!
Dr Ree says people are often surprised that they are referred to a psychologist for a sleep complaint, but it does makes sense given that the most effective long term treatment is a psychological one.
CBT for Insomnia helps people change behaviours and thoughts that impact on their ability to sleep well. Dr Ree says it help people to develop habits and thoughts that promote a healthy pattern of sleep, with only 4-6 sessions required to combat the disorder. 80 per cent of sufferers treated with CBT-I report long lasting benefits from the treatment.
If you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep and these symptoms sound all too familiar, Dr Ree says the first step is to consult your doctor. As sleep can be disrupted by a large range of factors, it is important to have the causes assessed.
If you would like to try the CBT-I treatment with Sleep Matters, you can make a one-on-one appointment without a referral- but can claim some of the cost back through Medicare if you do have one.
If you would prefer to work through your sleep issues in a group setting, there is also the option to join a group program for insomnia held at the Marian Centre in Wembley. The next workshop starts on July 23rd and runs for 4 weeks on Saturday mornings. This however is for over 18's.
Don’t let insomnia take over your health, work and social life, get your sleep sorted this sleep awareness week!
Visit the Sleep Matters website here to find out more.