Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning, even though you've had enough opportunity to sleep. Most people have problems sleeping at some point in their life. It's thought that a third of people in Ireland have bouts of insomnia. Insomnia tends to be more common in women and more likely to occur with age.
Symtoms of insomnia

The symptoms of insomnia depend on the type of sleeping problem that you have but can include:
  • lying awake for a long time at night before falling asleep
  • waking up several times in the middle of the night
  • waking up early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep
  • feeling tired and not refreshed by sleep
  • not being able to function properly during the day and finding it difficult to concentrate
  • being irritable

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia can be caused by many different things, including stressful events, psychiatric problems, underlying physical conditions or drug and substance misuse. It can also be a side effect of certain medications.

How much sleep do I need?

As every individual is different, it's difficult to define what ‘normal sleep’ is. For example, newborn babies can sleep for 16 hours a day, while school-age children need to have an average of 10 hours sleep. Most healthy adults sleep for an average of seven to nine hours a night. As you get older, it's normal to find sleep more difficult to maintain, although you still need the same amount of sleep.

Treating insomnia

The first step in treating insomnia is to diagnose and treat any underlying health condition that may be causing your sleep problems. If this is the case, once the condition has been treated your insomnia may disappear without the need for further help.

Your CBT Therapist at Cork Cognitive Therapy will discuss mechanisms to enable you to achieve better sleep (this is referred to as good sleep hygiene). At Cork Cognitive Therapy our CBT programme also involves discussing anxiety and the stress you are experiencing with a view to changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviours that may be contributing to your insomnia.

Sleeping tablets are usually the last resort and are often only used in the short-term with the smallest possible dose. This is because they can sometimes relieve the symptoms of insomnia but they don't treat the cause. If you have long-term insomnia, sleeping tablets are unlikely to help.