Written by Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych.
Discovering the root cause of sleep difficulties
Sleep plays a vital role in our health. We need it to survive – the same way we need water, oxygen, and food. Yet, about one-third of us struggle with chronic sleep difficulties. Our fast-paced lives create a lot of stress and worry that has the potential to negatively impact our sleep. But, before we are able to make changes in our lives to improve our sleep, it’s first important to determine the potential root causes of sleep difficulties.
How to discover the cause of sleep problems
- Consider if there are any underlying health conditions or medication side effects that could be impacting sleep. It may be helpful to speak to your doctor about these possibilities, as well as about the possibility of sleep conditions like insomnia, restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea. Learn more about these sleep conditions.
- Pay attention to your worry or rumination behaviour before bed. A certain amount of stress and anxiety is a normal part of life, but this is also one of the strongest factors that influence our sleep. Consider keeping a worry log or seeing a registered mental health professional for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is one of the most effective treatment approaches. Read more about managing the effects of anxiety and worry on sleep.
- Getting out of bed when you are having trouble sleeping. It may seem counterproductive but it’s important to ensure your bed remains a place where only sleep and sex happen. If anxious thoughts consistently occur when your head hits the pillow – over time, your bed and bedroom become associated with worrying. This means simply getting into bed can serve as a stimulus for anxious thoughts to begin. You want to break this cycle by getting out of bed if you can’t fall asleep within 15-20 minutes.
- Keep a sleep diary. If you’re having trouble identifying the root of your sleep problems, keep a sleep diary for one to two weeks. Here’s how: Track your diet, work, and leisure activities, and your levels of stress as well as your sleep/wake times. This can help identify patterns and factors that are affecting sleep that you may not otherwise be aware of.
Once you’ve discovered the potential causes of your sleep difficulties, you’ll have a much easier time determining the best course of action to improve your sleep.
Managing Sleep Challenges
The root cause of the sleep problem is going to have an impact on the best course of action when managing sleep difficulties. It may make sense to work on a sleep plan with a medical professional or a counsellor (CBT is one of the best ways of managing sleep problems). Reach out to Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych & Associates today to start on the path to better sleep.
Here are some of the common sleep disorders that warrant speaking to a medical professional about.
If you’re not struggling with an identified sleep disorder, sleep hygiene is one of the most effective ways of improving sleep.
Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych. is the Clinic Founder of Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych. & Associates and the CEO and Founder of MyWorkplaceHealth. Learn more about their clinical counsellingand workplace consulting services.