Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Easing Away Those Snooze Blues

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Easing Away Those Snooze Blues

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jane Picken

If counting sheep isn't working and you're desperate for a good night's sleep, help could be at hand. Jane Picken discovers the reasons behind insomnia

At some point in life everyone is likely to suffer from some kind of sleep-related problem, whether it is too little, too much or at the wrong time.

In fact, one in four people regularly experience problems with sleeping, and it accounts for 10% of GP consultations.

Now psychology experts at St George's Hospital, Morpeth, have come up with a booklet for GPs with sleep-deprived patients, which includes 13 pages of advice and guidance.

Clinical psychologist Lesley Maunder, based at St George's, explained: "Our department designed this booklet so GPs can help people with sleep problems.

"Since we brought it out it's been heavily used by primary care services and GPs, which really took us by surprise."

Many of Dr Maunder's patients will be experiencing some kind of emotional difficulty or trauma, such as bereavement or a mental illness, which are among the most frequent causes of disturbed sleeping patterns.

And problems in the bedroom can be the early warning signs of the onset of depression.

"There are a lot of sleeping problems which have their root cause in anxiety or depression," said Dr Maunder, who has been working as a psychologist for more than 20 years.

"In these cases we will help people with general sleeping advice. But it's more about tackling the underlying difficulties which can cover a range of issues, such as stress or some kind of traumatic event.

"But a lot of people who go to their GP might not have these underlying issues, so we'd often ask them to keep a sleep diary to find out more about their bedtime habits and patterns.

"My key piece of advice would be not to worry about getting enough sleep, because that in itself can keep someone awake."

As many as three-quarters of patients who visit the psychology unit at St George's will be suffering from sleeping difficulties, and it is not just insomnia which has a debilitating affect.

Dr Maunder said: "People who are suffering with depression often find they'll sleep too much and they get over-tired.

"In cases like those we'd start by addressing the depression as a way of restoring better sleep patterns.

"But there are still things which can be done in the short-term, such as increasing their activity levels during the day, and we stress that people need to get into a sleeping habit. It's about having a routine where they wind down before they go to bed.

"There are a lot of people on the internet at night now and it's quite a stimulating thing to do. So that could have an effect on you relaxing before you go to bed."

There is also a suggestion that sleeping problems could be hereditary, and that GPs should be told if there is a member of the family also experiencing difficulties. …

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