Sleep Problems

Sleep Problems

Sleep deprivation can be debilitating and affect your ability to function in your day to day life. Reasons for sleeping difficulties vary, but are often the cause of underlying stress, anxiety or depression.

CATEGORY: Life & Coping Skills


Number: #21


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A study released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing in 2023 (5,500 people aged 16 to 85 years old during 2020-2021) showed that more than two in five Australians experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. In 2020–21 more than 3.4 million Australians sought help from a health care professional for their mental health.

The study is published at

Understanding the reasons for your sleeping difficulties is the first step to getting a good night’s rest.

Sleep disorders, also known as sleep-wake disorders, are conditions that can affect the amount, timing, or quality of your sleep, causing you to feel tired in the daytime and have difficulty functioning as a result.

Sleep is a complex biological process during which your brain and body perform a number of functions that help you stay healthy; therefore, in addition to making you feel tired, not sleeping well can also affect your mental and physical health.

Not getting enough sleep can also affect your academic or work performance, interpersonal relationships, and safety. A 2019 study notes that sleep disorders can have a serious impact on your quality of life.


The symptoms you experience can vary depending on the type of sleep disorder you have. These are some common symptoms of sleep disorders:

  • Taking over half an hour to fall asleep every night
  • Waking up several times every night and having trouble going back to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Having difficulty moving when you first wake up
  • Often feeling sleepy in the day or frequently taking naps
  • Falling asleep at the wrong times in the day
  • Snoring loudly, gasping, snorting, making choking sounds, talking or not breathing for short periods of time while sleeping
  • Experiencing creeping, crawling, or tingling feelings in your arms or legs that get better with movement or massage, particularly while trying to fall asleep
  • Frequently jerking your arms or legs while sleeping
  • Having vivid, dream-like experiences while falling asleep or lightly dozing
  • Experiencing sudden muscle weakness when you’re angry, scared, or laughing
  • Feeling irritable during the day and have trouble controlling your emotions
  • Needing a nap or caffeinated beverages to help you get through the day
  • Not feeling rested when you wake in the morning, and you spend the night “tossing and turning”

These symptoms can be quite debilitating and have a significant impact on your daily life. It is important to see your GP and possibly a sleep specialist to find out if you have a sleep disorder, and in addition to any medical interventions, see a psychologist to address the psychological impacts and contributing factors to your sleep problems.



There are over 80 types of sleep disorders, but below are some of the most common ones:



Insomnia: Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder. It is characterised by difficulty with falling asleep and staying asleep.

Sleep apnea: This is a breathing disorder wherein the person stops breathing for 10 seconds or more while they’re sleeping.

Hypersomnia: Hypersomnia is a condition that is characterised by an inability to stay awake during the day. Narcolepsy is a type of hypersomnia.

Parasomnia: Parasomnia is characterized by unusual behaviors such as eating, walking, or talking while sleeping, falling asleep, or waking up.

Restless leg syndrome (RLS): This condition is characterised by a prickling or tingling sensation in the legs that is accompanied by a strong urge to move them.

Circadian rhythm disorders: These conditions are characterised by problems with the sleep-wake cycle, due to which the person is unable to go to sleep and wake up at the appropriate time.


Sleep disorders can be caused by various factors that affect your body’s circadian rhythm, such as:

  • Physical conditions, such as ulcers
  • Medical conditions, such as asthma
  • Psychiatric conditions, such as depression or anxiety
  • Genetic factors, as narcolepsy is genetic
  • Substances, such asalcohol
  • Stimulants, such as caffeine
  • Medications, since some drugs can hamper sleep
  • Irregular schedules, which can interfere with the body’s biological clock
  • Aging, since people spend less time in deep sleep as they get older

Therapy | Treatment


T reatment for sleeping disorders can vary depending on the type of disorder you have. These are some of the treatment options for sleeping disorders:

  • Good sleep hygiene
  • A cool, dark, and quiet sleeping environment
  • An active lifestyle and a healthy, balanced diet
  • Bright light therapy in the morning to reset your circadian rhythm
  • Relaxation exercises to reduce stress
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge stressful thought patterns
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat sleep apnea
  • Medicines, such as sleeping pills, which are generally prescribed for short periods of time
  • Natural supplements, such as melatonin, which are also generally recommended for short-term use

A psychologist will help you develop techniques for getting to sleep and staying asleep, and will also explore underlying issues related to your sleep issues, such as anxiety or depression.