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How to cope with sleep problems

Explains insomnia and other sleep problems, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.

About sleep problems

Everyone has problems sleeping at times. We all have nights where we find it hard to fall asleep, find ourselves waking up in the night or have dreams that disturb our sleep. This is perfectly normal. Often, these problems will resolve themselves after a short period of time.

However, if you have sleep problems that last weeks, months or years, this can start to have an impact on your day-to-day life. If you continue to sleep badly, this can affect your energy levels, moods and how much you are able to concentrate. It can also have an impact on your relationships and social life. It may also affect your ability to carry out usual day-to-day tasks, such as studying, going to work and carrying out daily chores.

If poor sleep is having a significant impact on your daily life, you will generally be considered to have a sleep problem. The most common sleep problems are listed below.

Insomnia

If you suffer from insomnia, this could mean that you have difficulty in falling asleep or getting back to sleep if you wake up in the night. It may mean that you find yourself waking up very early in the morning. You may also find that sleeping does not refresh you, and that you feel constantly tired. For example, you may experience disturbed or light sleep, or wake up and fall back to sleep several times in a night.

Oversleeping

Oversleeping is sleeping more than your body needs. While this may have less of an impact on your daily life than insomnia, some studies have linked chronic oversleeping with physical problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

Nightmares and night terrors

Nightmares are intense, frightening dreams that cause you to wake up, sometimes leaving you feeling very scared. They are often related to events or experiences in your life.

Night terrors are like nightmares, but they occur during deep sleep. Night terrors cause a deep sense of fear, an increase in your heart rate and sweating. You may also scream, shout or cry in your sleep. Often, people find it difficult to wake up from a night terror and afterwards have little or no memory of what has happened.

Nightmares and night terrors can affect the quality of your sleep, and cause general anxiety about falling asleep that may lead to insomnia.

Sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis is when you wake up in the night and cannot move or speak because there are still sleep hormones in your muscles. It usually lasts between a couple of seconds and a few minutes. Although it can’t harm you, sleep paralysis can be extremely scary, and may lead to anxiety about falling back to sleep.

Sleep walking

Sleep walking involves getting up in the night and walking or moving around. Sometimes you may carry out activities, such as tidying or washing up. Sleep walking is not usually a problem, unless you injure yourself by banging into things or tripping over. However, it can disrupt your sleep and affect how rested you feel the next day.

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