Sometimes catching the recommended amount of zzz’s isn’t that easy. Personal problems and the likes of sleep apnoea or insomnia can often get in the way of a good night’s rest. The most common sleep problems include Insomnia, Sleep Apnoea and Restless Leg Syndrome. So, to help the nation get their suggested 8 hours’ slumber, we talk to top sleep doctors to find out what these problems are and how to resolve the sleepless nights.

Related: How to Reset Your Body Clock [Infographic]

Insomnia

Insomnia is the most common sleep problem across the UK and affects roughly 1 in 3 people according to the NHS. Put simply, insomnia is where you struggle to get to sleep or achieve enough sleep. This can be caused by a number of reasons, such as stress, environment, or mental or physical health.

Sleep Dr. Michael E. Platt and author of Adrenaline Dominance says:

‘The number one cause of insomnia is due to excess adrenaline. It is the cause of Restless Leg Syndrome, tossing and turning, teeth grinding, jaw clenching, getting up to urinate. It is a frequent cause of hot flashes and night sweats, especially around 2:20 am when adrenaline is released. It is the cause of bed-wetting in children, and a very frequent cause of weight gain while people are sleeping. On the positive side, it is exceptionally easy to lower adrenaline levels within 24 hours using natural means so that people can sleep restfully through the night.’

You can lower adrenaline levels with:

  • Certain sleep inducing foods, for example bananas, cherry or sweet potatoes.
  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga can also go a long way to reducing adrenaline and helping you drift off.
  • Avoiding excess caffeine or coffee for at least 6 hours before bed, as only one half of your caffeine intake is eliminated after 6 hours.
  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule and avoiding naps.
  • Helpguide.org also recommends keeping a sleep diary, so you can track any before bedtime habits that might be leading to your insomnia and tackle them head on.

An image showing common sleep problems - insomnia

Another contributing factor to insomnia could be how you sleep. Dr. Jason Loth, co-founder of the Spine Align Pillow states:

‘In my professional opinion, one of the most common sleep problems is insomnia originating from people not sleeping in correct posture. When you don’t sleep in correct posture, and most people don’t in my opinion, you put added stress on the spine which can cause many unwanted symptoms like headaches, migraines, neck pain, back pain, numbness and tingling in your extremities, etc.

Basically, you are uncomfortable because your head and neck aren’t being supported properly so you tend to toss and turn all night which can lead to a person becoming very hot and uncomfortable which means that you can never get to the deep levels of sleep that your body needs to recover.’

To find out what is best for you based on your preferred sleeping position, our Bed and Mattress Guide might help.

Related: What is Insomnia and Can You Cure It?

Sleep Apnoea

‘Everyone is concerned with sleep apnoea these days’ according to sleep Dr. Monica Tadros.

‘This is a condition when you stop breathing in your sleep, your throat obstructs and your oxygen levels drop to dangerously low levels. But more commonly, patients have what we call sleep disordered breathing (SDB). In this condition, the oxygen levels are usually normal, but sleep is just not restful. Most commonly the source of the problem is actually the nose, not the throat. Anything that blocks the nose, such as a deviated septum, nasal allergies or chronic sinusitis can cause sleep-disordered breathing and a tough night’s sleep.

Sometimes sleep disordered breathing is positional and patient’s will say they can only sleep on one side. In these patients SDB may worsen after they suffer an injury. They are often stumped about why they can’t get a restful night’s sleep all of a sudden, not realising it’s because they can’t sleep on their ‘favourite side’ anymore.’

An image showing someone with sleep apnoea using a CPAP machine

To ease sleep disordered breathing or sleep apnoea, try the following:

  • The NHS recommends avoiding alcohol and smoking as smoking increases inflammation and fluid retention in your throat and upper airway.
  • It’s also helpful to lose excess weight and exercise regularly.
  • If your sleep apnoea isn’t easing after these lifestyle changes, there are some devices that can help you, for example a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device or a Mandibular Advancement Device to help regulate your breathing.
  • Another tip for curing sleep apnoea as suggested by helpguide.org is to ‘stick to a steady sleep schedule that will help you relax and sleep better. Sleep apnoea episodes decrease when you get plenty of sleep.’

Restless Leg Syndrome

Last of the most common sleep problems is Restless Leg Syndrome. As the name suggests, this refers to when the nervous system causes an overwhelming urge to move the legs. According to the NHS as many as 1 in 10 people are affected by restless leg syndrome at some point in their life and women are twice as likely to develop it than men.

An image showing common sleep problems - RLS

RLS is often caused by the chemical Dopamine, which controls muscle movement. It can also be caused by excess levels of anxiety or even underlying health conditions such as kidney failure or an iron deficiency. Daragh Bogan of the RLS-UK charity, says:

‘It is for this reason that measurement of iron in blood tests is important for RLS and should be done in every case of RLS. An association between RLS and iron deficiency in the blood has been long recognised. In fact, it was back in 1950 when Karl Ekbom noted that about 25% of RLS patients had an iron deficiency. Studies have also shown that abnormalities of brain iron storage and transport are strongly associated with RLS.’

Related: What Causes Jerking and Twitching in Sleep?

To treat Restless Leg Syndrome, it’s helpful to try the following:

  • Develop good sleep habits and stick to a regular sleep time.
  • Exercising regularly is also helpful. According to the healthline.com, people with RLS who exercise daily for 30 to 60 minutes report less fatigue, less symptoms, and better sleep habits.
  • If you are a smoker, quitting will make a big difference as smoking tends to make your body jittery.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety by taking up relaxation techniques, such as mediation or yoga.

Have you come across the above sleep problems? Let us know what has helped you in the comments!