What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning, even though you’ve had enough opportunity to sleep.

It’s difficult to define what normal sleep is because everyone is different. Your age, lifestyle, environment and diet all play a part in influencing the amount of sleep you need.

The most common symptoms of insomnia are:

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • waking up during the night
  • waking up early in the morning
  • feeling irritable and tired and finding it difficult to function during the day

The relationship between sleep and mental health

Sleep problems are the most common cause of poor mental health. Persistent insomnia (getting to sleep and/or staying asleep) affects approximately 10% of people. Every day, 38% of adults in the UK are estimated to be suffering from at least one insomnia symptom.

Sleep problems have a direct negative impact on quality of life, and can increase the risk of developing further psychological problems such as anxiety or depression.  Up to 80% of patients with major depression report sleep disturbances.  And research shows that poor sleep can make existing problems worse, can maintain mental health issues longer and also act as a barrier to successful treatment.  Furthermore, insomnia can increase the risk of developing of a variety of other chronic illnesses including cardiovascular disease, chronic pain disorders, obesity and diabetes.

Treating insomnia

The latest diagnostic criteria state that insomnia merits independent treatment, regardless of comorbidities.  Insomnia treatment includes two broad categories: CBT and medication (hypnotics). Although both approaches can be effective in the short-term, cognitive behavioural methods have more durable effects, and are often preferred by patients. ,

The gold standard solution: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals understand the connections amongst their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and, in turn, overcome their problems by changing the way they think and behave. CBT for insomnia has been assessed in over 100 randomized clinical trials (RCTs), and the results show that on average 70% of people with even very long-term poor sleep (10+ years) obtain lasting benefit from the treatment.

CBT is recommended by NICE as the first-choice treatment for a range of disorders including insomnia, phobias, addiction, depression, and anxiety.

What solutions are on offer?

If you feel that you are experiencing problems with your sleep, Kingston iCope can offer you a range of effective CBT based treatments to suit your needs.

If you would like help, please self-refer [using the BLUE button on the left] clearly stating the nature of your sleep difficulties on the referral form. Alternatively, you may wish to speak to your GP about a referral to our service.

What can I do to help myself now?

The first step in treating insomnia is to find out whether the problem is being caused by an underlying medical condition.

Please speak to your GP to rule this out.

If it is, once the condition has been treated your insomnia may disappear without the need for further medical help.

Your GP or health professional should advise you on what you can do at home to help you sleep. This is often referred to as good sleep hygiene, and includes:

  • establishing fixed times for going to bed and waking up (avoid sleeping in after a poor night’s sleep)
  • trying to relax before going to bed
  • maintaining a comfortable sleeping environment (not too hot, cold, noisy or bright)
  • avoiding napping during the day
  • avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late at night
  • avoiding exercise within four hours of bedtime (although exercise in the middle of the day is beneficial)
  • avoiding eating a heavy meal late at night
  • avoiding watching or checking the clock throughout the night
  • using the bedroom mainly for sleep and sex if possible

If you have long-term insomnia (lasting more than four weeks) your GP may recommend cognitive behavioural treatments (CBT) and/or medication.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may be offered and may include working through educational material together so you can understanding insomnia and sleep problems, make adjustments to ‘sleep hygiene’ and use diaries to monitor sleep and record improvements so you can see evidence of the change happening for yourself.

Again, If you would like more help, please consider referring yourself clearly stating the nature of your sleep difficulties on the referral form so that we can assist you further. Alternatively, you may wish to speak to your GP about a referral to our service.