www.links.psychology.com.au. Fact Sheet. Sleep. The purpose of sleep: Sleep is essential in everyday life to maintain internal bodily systems in addition to ...
Fact Sheet Sleep The purpose of sleep: Sleep is essential in everyday life to maintain internal bodily systems in addition to preserving your internal timing mechanism, referred to as your circadian rhythm.
Common sleep hygiene: Sleeping patterns vary between individuals for instance, one person may function highly with only 5 hours sleep whereas another would require 8 hours. Variations also exist between the amounts of sleep a given individual gets between each night. I.e. some nights you may acquire 8 hours sleep, the next getting 6 hours sleep. Sleep disturbance only becomes an issue when you feel it affecting your daily functioning for longer than a couple of weeks.
Causes of sleep disturbance: Causes of sleep disturbance varies between individuals, however, the most common causes may be attributed to recent life stressors such as recent deaths in the family, new work commitments or even keeping up with study schedules. Other factors could also include: • • • • •
Putting other things ahead of sleep i.e. social life, work etc An inconsistent night time routine/night shifts at work An unhealthy lifestyle including a poor diet and exercise Use of drugs and alcohol, including caffeine and other stimulants Depression, anxiety or troubling/worrying thoughts
Signs of sleep disturbance: Deviances from a routine sleeping habit occasionally results in either short term or long term side effects of sleep deprivation. •
Short term side effects include: slight physiological and behavioural disturbances such as loss of motivation and muscle fatigue. Furthermore, being awake for 19 hours in a day is equivalent to a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.05%, similarly, being awake for 24 hours is equivalent to a BAC of 0.10%. Long term side effects include more severe versions/extended periods of short term symptoms.
After a period of deprivation, missed sleep will be regained either via brief periods of micro-sleep, lasting between 2-3 seconds long, or via extensive hours of sleep during one night’s sleep. Tel: 03 9354 5465 [email protected]
Sleep Disorders: More complicated consequences associated with sleep disruption includes the development and sustenance of sleep disorders. The most common sleep disorders can be sub-categorised into 2 main groups: Insomnia, Hypersomnia and Injury-induced sleep disorders.
Insomnia Insomnia, the most common form of sleep disorder, can be broadly defined as the inability to sleep over extended periods of time. Common symptoms include feeling restless and wakeful throughout the night. General causes of Insomnia include: • • • •
Physician induced insomnia: this occurs through the prescription of drugs from physicians in which individuals may experience the loss of sleep as a side effect. Sleep apnea: the act of failing to breathe during the night, often common in males, individuals who are overweight and the elderly. Periodic limb movement: involves the persistent movement of limbs/legs throughout the night, resulting in poor sleep. Substance use: the consumption of cocaine and amphetamine derived stimulants often promote wakefulness by boosting the activity of neurohormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. The use of these drugs may also lead to other side effects such as loss of appetite, anxiety, tremor and symptoms of addiction.
Hypersomnia Another type of sleep disorder involves hypersomnia. The most common form is known as narcolepsy. There are 2 prominent symptoms of narcolepsy which include: • •
Severe daytime sleepiness and repeated sleep episodes. This involves falling asleep during routine activities such as eating, during a conversation or even whilst walking. Cataplexy, another symptom, involves the re-occurring loss of muscle tone during wakefulness often triggered by an emotional experience.
Other prominent symptoms that may also arise include: • •
Sleep paralysis: the inability to move for a brief period of time when slowly coming out of deep sleep. Hypnagogic hallucinations: experiencing dreamlike experiences during wakefulness.
Tel: 03 9354 5465 [email protected]
Injury-induced sleep disorders Occurs when there has been damage to core areas of the brain responsible for normal functioning sleep. This involves areas such as the Reticular Activating System or the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus. Often there may be no major impact, however, the severity of the damage is generally indicative of the level of symptoms expressed. It is strongly advised you see a GP for further information and referrals.
General treatments adopted by psychologists to help improve your sleep: Forms of behavioural treatments include: • • •
Sleep restriction therapy: involves restricting the amount of time allocated to sleep whilst progressively increasing that time. Practical guided imagery exercise: guided imagery involves the use of your imagination whilst you progressively relax your muscles and guide yourself into a relaxed state. Progressive muscle relaxation exercise: This exercise is similar to the guided imagery exercise however it mostly focuses on relaxing the muscles one at a time to reach a deep relaxed state.
If these behavioural methods don’t seem to be effective, then you will be referred a psychiatrist or GP who will prescribe medication. Medication is generally more commonly prescribed for individuals with hypersomnia and can take the form of antidepressants or appropriate stimulants.
What happens when I tell my psychologist about my sleep disruption? Your psychologist will start by making a brief assessment of the things that might be contributing to your sleep problem, and how this has impacted your life. During the first session, the psychologist will also discuss your best treatment options. If both you and your psychologist agree on a particular form of treatment, the psychologist will work with you closely to develop skills in managing your sleep habits. Links Psychologists practice in a range of interventions which have been proven to be effective for sleep difficulties. Our overall approach will help you to develop ideal sleeping routines in addition to acquiring relaxation techniques, sorting out worrying issues and working through life problems that might be causing you stress.
More questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact Links Psychology on: Tel: 03 9354 5465 [email protected]