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A sleep problem is any condition that prevents you from getting to sleep, or one that wakes you during the night.

In either case, it is something that is interfering with your normal sleep, and leaving you feeling poorly rested and, perhaps, frustrated as well. Most people feel tired on occasion, but if you are suffering from a persistent problem, night after night, that is neither normal, nor healthy, and it needs to be treated.

You will find some common sleep problems below, some of which will be familiar, others less so.

Insomnia3Insomnia is not characterised by the number of hours you sleep, but rather by one, or more, of the following:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking frequently during the night and struggling to return to sleep
  • Waking too early in the morning

Insomnia can be either acute (lasting one to several nights), or chronic (lasting months, or years). If you are having difficulty falling asleep it could be that the time you are going to bed may not be in sync with your biological clock. For help in re-setting your biological clock please see Tips for Falling Asleep.

Restless Legs Syndrome is a disorder that causes strange and unpleasant feelings in the legs – feelings that can be relieved by moving them. This strong urge to move, along with the feelings of uneasiness, takes place when you are inactive, and is worse in the evening and at night. For this reason, Restless Legs Syndrome can make it very difficult to fall asleep and then stay asleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is the interruption of airflow during sleep, preventing air from entering the lungs. The cause is a lack of muscle tone in the upper airway, which allows the airway to collapse. This can happen more than ten times an hour, and can last more than ten seconds each time. The condition occurs only during sleep, as we have sufficient muscle tone to keep the airway open during normal breathing.

Insomnia2REM behaviour disorder. The REM stage of sleep is when we dream – however, we may also experience muscle paralysis. So, while the brain is very active, the body is still. People with REM disorder may act out dramatic, or violent dreams, and can inadvertently injure their bed partners, or themselves.

Epilepsy and sleep. There is a clear connection between epilepsy and sleep: sleep activates electrical charges in the brain that cause seizures in epileptics; these seizures are timed according to the sleep/wake cycle. Lack of sleep is known to be a trigger for seizures.

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that causes extreme sleepiness, even after getting enough sleep at night, and may make a person fall asleep suddenly without warning. Research has shown that people with narcolepsy have lower than average levels of a chemical in the brain that regulates sleep.

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