Insomnia is the medical term for when you have problems sleeping on a regular basis. This is an issue that affects millions of people across the UK - according to Aviva's 2017 Wellbeing Survey, around a third of UK adults suffer from insomnia. Regular insomnia and poor sleep isn't just an inconvenience; it can lead to several health problems.
Today's post will take a closer look at the problem of sleepless nights, including the causes, symptoms, treatments and ways of getting a better night sleep. Firstly, let's take a look at some sleeping statistics.
Insomnia - The Statistics
Last year, Aviva's Well-Being Report revealed some shocking insomnia statistics. Did you know:
- 67% of adults suffer from disrupted sleep.
- 23% of adults manage no more than five hours of sleep a night.
- More than one in 10 people take sleeping tablets to help them get to sleep.
- 31% of people said that they suffer from insomnia.
- 48% of adults admit that they don't get the right amount of sleep.
- 51% of adults don't take any measure to help them sleep... despite improving sleep being the biggest health ambition for 26% of the adult population.
As you can see, insomnia is a big problem here in the UK, but what symptoms mean that you're suffering from it?
Do I Have Insomnia?
Insomnia is one of several common sleep disorders. If you have insomnia, you may experience the following issues:
- Difficulty getting to sleep.
- Lying awake throughout the night.
- Waking up on several occasions throughout the night.
- Waking up early and not being to get back to sleep.
- Feeling tired throughout the day.
- Difficulty concentrating through the day because you're so tired.
These symptoms can carry on for months, even years in some extreme cases. When these issues last less than three months, it's called short-term insomnia. Any longer than that means you have long-term insomnia.
Of course, the above can create huge problems at work and can also put you and others at risk if you're behind the wheel or in charge of machinery at work. Did you know that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related? Of these sleep-related accidents, around 40% involve commercial vehicles.
You may also begin to see your weight increase over time as sleep deprivation affects the levels of hormones involved in regulating your appetite. Levels of this hormone, known as leptin, will drop and the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin will rise.
Causes of Insomnia
Sleep issues can begin for several reasons. The causes of insomnia can vary depending on your habits, your occupation, and many other factors. Some of the most common causes include:
- Depression and anxiety.
- Shift work.
- Trying to sleep in a room that's too hot or cold.
- Jet lag.
Alongside environmental and recreational causes, some medical conditions can also put you at risk of insomnia. Examples include mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's and restless legs syndrome. Some medications for these conditions can also lead to sleepless nights. Women are usually more prone to insomnia than men.
How Much Sleep do we Need?
Generally, adults need to have between seven and nine hours of good-quality sleep each night in order to function properly. Some people require less sleep, whilst others require much more. It's important that you find out how much you need to feel healthy and then try to achieve it.
As a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a chance to have a nap, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough sleep."
Treatments for Insomnia
You can help treat your insomnia by making some changes to your sleeping habits. You should try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, but only go to bed when you feel tired. Another tip would be to relax for at least one hour before bed, perhaps by reading or relaxing in the bath.
Other methods of self-treatment include:
- Making sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet. Try using blackout curtains and blinds, as well as using earplugs or an eye mask.
- Regular exercise during the day.
- Making sure your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable.
- Avoid eating a big meal late at night.
- Not napping during the day.
- Not using electronic devices right before you go to bed - the bright light of a screen makes you more awake.
When to see a GP
If you've had trouble sleeping for months and changing your sleeping habits hasn't helped, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Your GP will try to find out what is causing your insomnia and you may be referred to a therapist for cognitive behavioural therapy. This can help you change the thoughts and behaviours that keep you from sleeping.
It's rare nowadays for doctors to prescribe sleeping pills to treat insomnia, as they can have serious side effects and you may become too dependent on them. If your doctor prescribes sleeping pills, it will only be for a few days or weeks at the most.
After months of lost sleep, it may take several weeks for you to catch up and feel refreshed once again. On a weekend, try to add an extra hour or two of sleep a night by going to bed when you're tired and allowing your body to wake up in the morning by itself - no alarm clocks! Expect to sleep for upwards of 10 hours a night at first. After a while, the amount of time you sleep will gradually decrease to a normal level.
NHS's 7 Benefits of a Good Night's Sleep
The NHS list the following health benefits of a good night's sleep:
- Boosts immunity
- Helps you to maintain a healthy weight.
- Boosts your mental well-being - a lack of sleep can lead to depression.
- Prevents diabetes.
- Increases your sex drive.
- Helps to fight off heart disease.
- Increases your fertility.
Personal Alarm Information
For many people, getting a good night's sleep is the first step to improving their overall health and well-being. Sleep-deprived people may be more likely to fall - a big concern for lots of older people. To protect yourself, why not consider a Lifeline alarm? If you fall or feel unwell, a personal alarm lets you call for help with just the touch of a button.
For more information about our life-saving personal alarm service, please get in touch with our friendly team on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on 6th April 2021 to reflect current information.
Originally published April 2018.