Insomnia is common and affects people of all ages. Typical features include:
- Difficulty getting off to sleep
- Trouble staying asleep
- Waking too early in the morning
- Worrying about not sleeping
- Tiredness during the day
There are many different reasons for insomnia. Bad sleep habits, called "poor sleep hygiene", and conditioned or habitual insomnia are the most common causes. Some simple strategies to improve sleep hygiene include:
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine-containing drinks after 6pm
- Use the bedroom for sleeping and intimate activity only (e.g. not for studying, working or watching television)
- Avoid long daytime naps
- Aim to rise at the same time each day
- Avoid excessive time in bed
- If unable to sleep, stay out of bed until sleepy again
Other strategies to treat conditioned insomnia include relaxation techniques, and more specialised methods such as Stimulus Control and Sleep Restriction Therapies. Some types of insomnia may be caused by a mis-timed body clock which can be treated with bright light therapy.
Less commonly, insomnia may be due to side effects of certain medications or an underlying medical disorder such as depression.
Dr. Lovato is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Adelaide Institute of Sleep Health, Flinders University. Her research interests are focused on the basic and clinical aspects of sleep, circadian rhythms, and sleep disorders such as insomnia. She is primarily interested in how sleep, and the disturbance of it, can impact on daytime functioning. Her research is aimed at understanding the relationship between sleep and daytime functioning and evaluating the use of different treatment strategies, such as cognitive-behaviour therapy, bright light, melatonin administration and napping, to minimise the adverse effects of sleep disturbances and disorders.
An information booklet "Sleep well, Live better" published by Media21 is an excellent resource. Information and purchase is available from www.3stepstobettersleep.com.au.