Sleep problems are very common and are often referred to as insomnia. Sleep difficulties are particularly common in women, children, and those over 65. In fact, roughly half of the elderly population complains of insomnia. Therefore to have trouble sleeping at some point in your life is quite normal.

What causes sleep problems?

– Normal effects of aging

When people get older they tend to sleep less deeply and need less sleep. Not only this but sometimes people develop a habit of dropping off to sleep during the day which again reduces the need for sleep at night. This in itself is not a problem, but often not sleeping becomes a greater cause for worry, frustration, and concern, which in turn leads to sleeping less well.

– Medical reasons
Medical reasons for poor sleep may or may not be related to getting older.

Some examples are:
– The need to go to the toilet during the night occurs more in later life. About 60% of women and about 70% of men, aged over 65 get out of bed at least once a night to go to the toilet. This can also happen for other reasons of course, such as pregnancy. Getting out of bed at night isn’t always a great problem, but can be frustrating if it is difficult to get back to sleep;
– Another medical reason is pain. This again can be common in older age with joint pains such as arthritis. Other health problems can also affect sleep, for example, diabetes, high blood pressure, and breathing difficulties;
– The emotional upset of loss or bereavement can affect sleep and again this may be more common in older people;
– Some medicines can interfere with sleep, so it is worth checking with your doctor if you are on any tablets.
– Stress, anxiety, and worry 

Sleep is easily affected by how someone is feeling. If someone is worried about something or suffering from stress, very often they will find it hard to get off to sleep.

– Depression and low mood

When someone is feeling depressed, disturbed sleep is common. It is quite usual for a depressed person to wake up early in the morning and find it hard to get back to sleep, or alternatively to have difficulty getting off to sleep.

– Surroundings

Surroundings can make a big difference when sleeping. For example, a bedroom that is over hot or over cold, a bed that is too hard or too soft, a room that is too noisy or too light can all make a difference to how well someone sleeps. Sleeping in a strange place can also affect someone’s sleep.

– Disrupted sleep routine
People who work shifts that change frequently often have difficulty sleeping.
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What sort of sleep problem do you have?

Knowing exactly what sort of sleep problem you have can help when it comes to trying to deal with it.
Getting to sleep

The most common sleep problem is trouble getting to sleep. For some people it can take several hours to drop off to sleep, but once they are asleep the quality of sleep is good.

Staying asleep

The next most common problem is a disturbed sleep pattern, with frequent waking in the middle of the night and difficulty getting back to sleep.

Waking too early

A third problem is waking earlier than is desired, again with difficulty getting back to sleep.

Poor quality sleep

In addition, some people report sleeping lightly, with restless, disturbed, and inconsistent sleep.

Sleep problems are very common and affect people in different ways. There is no “right” amount of sleep as this varies between people and across the life-span. Sleep problems can occur for a number of reasons: as a result of age; medical reasons; emotional reasons; unhelpful surroundings; disrupted sleep routines. There are different sorts of sleep problems. It is also possible to think you have a sleep problem when in fact you are still getting enough sleep but it is different from what you expect.

Here’s what you should do to Your sleep problems:

  1. Write down the problems you are thinking about.
  2. Taking each problem, write down everything you can possibly think you might do to solve the problem.
  3. Choose the most helpful solution and write down all the steps you are going to need to take to do it. Write as much as you can.
  4. Write down any obstacles and how you might tackle them.
  5. When you are finished say to yourself firmly “OK. That is it for now. I can’t do any more about it at this time of night. I am not going to let myself worry about it till the morning”.
  6. Spend at least half an hour winding down, reading a paper, or listening to some music. When you start to feel sleepy go back to bed.
  7. If you still find yourself worrying, keep saying to yourself “I’ve dealt with my worry for now. Worrying about it now will not help. I’ll deal with it tomorrow”.
  8. If you don’t drop off to sleep within 15-30minutes, don’t stay in bed – the importance of this is discussed later on in the booklet.

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