What can I do to get to sleep?
By Dr Stan Steindl BA PGDipPsych MClinPsych PhD(Clin) MAPS
This is one of the questions we are most frequently asked. Irrespective of a client’s other problems, sleeping difficulties are usually also present, either as a part of their primary condition or as a disorder in its own right.
Sleeping difficulties can have major adverse effects on a person’s life. Such difficulties can lead to psychological distress, impairment in daytime functioning, involvement in fatigue-related error-making or accidents, increased use of sick leave, greater irritability and depression, and prolonged use of minor tranquillisers.
We use three major treatment components when faced with clients reporting sleep difficulties.
People experiencing difficulty sleeping can develop maladaptive coping strategies, which ultimately interfere with sleep and maintain the problem. This component aims to strengthen the association between bedtime and sleep, and consolidate sleep over shorter periods of time in bed.
Maladaptive thoughts are instrumental in producing emotional arousal, which in turn maintains sleep difficulties. Thus, maladaptive thoughts must be identified, challenged, and replaced with more adaptive substitutes.
Many lifestyle and environmental factors (diet, exercise, alcohol, substance use, noise, light, and temperature) affect sleep. This component of treatment aims to heighten the client’s awareness and knowledge of the impact of health-related habits and environmental factors on sleep, and to promote better sleep practices.
If you identify a person with sleep difficulties, don’t hesitate to refer them to Psychology Consultants. Often a very brief, targeted intervention will successfully turn their difficulties around.