The body requires sleep to restore its energy levels and to maintain mental and physical wellbeing. At some point in life, most people will experience sleep disturbances, this may be due to current external circumstances or may have a more long-term physiological or psychological basis. Anyone at any age can develop a sleep disorder/disturbance. Sleep disturbances are usually temporary. But if sleep disturbances are a regular occurrence and interfere with your daily life, you may require some help to improve the problem.
If you suffer from a sleep disorder, you will probably suffer from feeling tired or irritable during the day; have difficulty staying awake while carrying out a non-mobile activity like watching TV, reading or driving. You also may have difficulty concentrating or have slowed reaction speeds. Disturbed sleep includes the inability to fall asleep, the inability to go back to sleep, or frequent waking during the night. There are many conditions that can cause sleep disturbances. There are several common causes of sleep disturbance:
- Sleep apnoea
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
- Teeth grinding (called ‘bruxism’)
There are a number of things that can be done to improve symptoms of sleep disorders. The following are general tips to leading a healthy lifestyle but may be particularly beneficial if you struggle to sleep:
- weight loss if BMI is over 25;
- having a regular sleeping schedule;
- decreasing stress and anxiety;
- decreasing evening water consumption;
- decreasing, or limiting, caffeine intake; and/or
- decreasing tobacco and alcohol use.
When should I see my GP?
If you have tried the above, as applicable, but your symptoms don’t alleviate, it would be advisable to make an appointment to see your GP.
Depending on the causes of your sleeping disturbance, your GP may recommend:
- sleeping pills or other prescription medication;
- melatonin supplements;
- counselling or psychotherapy;
- breathing devices;
- addressing other health conditions; and/or
- using a dental guard for teeth grinding.
In some circumstances, your GP may recommend you see a sleep specialist. If this is the case, your GP can refer you to Spire Murrayfield Hospital in Edinburgh where further diagnostic tests, medication or surgery can be carried out.