Insomnia and Sleep Problems

Most of us will experience a sleepless nights in some point in our lives, but sometimes these sleep problems persist for months up to many years.  If this is you, you are not alone, and help is available!

Getting enough sleep is essential for leading a happy and productive life. While occasional sleepless nights are normal, prolonged and chronic insomnia can become a severe issue that requires attention. Unfortunately, when insomnia takes hold, it can have adverse effects on your physical and mental health, affecting every aspect of your well being.

The consequences of poor sleep include:

  • reduced ability to concentrate
  • poorer short-term memory
  • increased weight gain
  • higher blood pressure
  • feeling down, irritable or anxious
  • slower reaction times
  • increased risk of cardiovascular problems
  • increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • increased risk of developing clinical depression

Sleeping pills may help some people, but should only be used for a short time. They come with side effects like drowsiness and gastrointestinal problems and can lead to tolerance and dependency issues, which means you may become addicted or need higher doses over time.

Insomnia and other sleep problems

Insomnia is a term used to describe problems with sleep, when the difficulty is getting to sleep, staying asleep or waking up too early. It can also refer an experience of poor quality sleep, causing daytime fatigue or sleepiness. In clinical practice, health professionals make the distinction between acute insomnia, which is short term and relatively common, and chronic insomnia which persists for more than three months and causes a significant degree of distress.

Acute insomnia

Nearly half of the population will experience short term or acute insomnia, which usually resolves within a few weeks. Acute insomnia is most often caused by a stressful situation or significant change in life circumstances, such as having an important work project due, changing jobs, travelling overseas, or experiencing a medial illness. As sleep tends to improve again once the stressful situation passes and most people will not require treatment or intervention.

Chronic insomnia

Chronic insomnia is typically defined as poor sleep for 3 or more nights a week, persisting longer than three months. It affects around 5-10% of the population, with some people reporting they’ve had problems with sleep for years or as long as they can remember.

If your sleep has been disturbed for more than three months, it is important that you consult your GP for a medical assessment and advice. Your GP may diagnose and Insomnia Disorder if you meet certain clinical criteria, and other potential causes of insomnia have been ruled out. Your GP will help you decide if you need to meet with a sleep specialist, a mental health professional, or whether a self-help approach would be suitable.

The consequences of insomnia and disturbed sleep

Short-term consequences
If you haven’t sleep well for a few nights you’ll know the feeling of fatigue and sleepiness that can occur in the days that follow. Other common effects of poor sleep include:

  • reduced mental alertness and ability to concentrate
  • poorer short-term memory
  • changes in mood, such as feeling down, more irritably or anxious
  • changes in perspective, such as a greater tendency towards negative thinking
  • a greater tendency to make mistakes or errors
  • slower reaction times, which can increase the risk of accidents or injuries.

How common is insomnia?

Occasional sleep problems are very common with about 30-50% of people reporting at least a few nights of disturbed sleep. Long term or chronic insomnia, which has persisted more than three months, affects about 10% of the population. 

Treatment for insomnia and sleep problems

Insomnia is highly treatable, with good success rates for psychological therapy.  Medication may be useful for some people in the short term, however there are tolerance and dependency issues and medication rarely resolves the underlying causes or the insomnia.

The most effective long-term treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTi) or a newer development of CBTi which includes comprehensive mindfulness training, called Mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia (MBTI).  Dr Giselle Withers, Clinical Psychologist at Avoka Health provides CBTi and mindfulness based therapy for insomnia, and she has also develop an our online insomnia program, called A Mindful Way to Health Sleep. You can purchase and access the online program at any time, and combine this program with individual appointments with Giselle, for additional support.

Treatment for insomnia and sleep probelms on the Gold Coast

Dr Giselle Withers is an experienced Clinical Psychologist at Avoka Health on the Gold Coast, who can help you overcome insomnia and sleep disturbance. Giselle has advanced training at a doctoral level in mental health assessment and psychological therapy, and has over 20 years of experience treating insomnia and a range of other mental health problems.  Giselle has a compassionate and non-judgemental counselling style, and will work with you to understand the causes of your anxiety, and help you develop skills and strategies to feel happier, healthier, and more at ease with yourself and others.  Learn more about Giselle’s approach here.

Your first step

If you have had sleep problems for a while, an important first step is to talk to your general practitioner (GP). Your GP can provide an initial assessment to look at your overall health and symptoms, and discuss treatment options with you. If appropriate, your GP can prepare a Mental Health Treatment Plan which will allow you to access a Medicare rebate for your psychology sessions.  

Making a booking with Dr Giselle Withers

To make an appointment with Dr Giselle please contact Avoka Health using the links below.

If you have a GP referral, you can ask your GP to send this directly to Giselle or you can email a copy to Giselle yourself before your first appointment.

Book appointment: