An introduction to sleep problems

Sleep problems come near the top of health issues that prompt web searches.

An increasing number of people find that getting a good night’s sleep can be a real pain. Estimates of the number of people suffering from sleeping problems vary:

  • It is said that up to 25% of the UK population have problems getting restful or good sleep

  • Some studies suggest that up to 40% of people complain of having ‘sleep problems'

  • Other studies indicate that between 23% and 34% of people suffer from problems sleeping including insomnia.


Whatever the true figure is, it is clear that many people around us feel that they can’t sleep or have problems sleeping well.

Sleep problems are different from sleep disorders which are medical conditions that can affect your sleep, such as sleep apnoea.


In general, people experience three patterns of sleeping problems:

  • Difficulty getting to sleep - this is probably the most common. With normal sleep, you should be unconscious well within 30 minutes. However, some people find that it can take a few hours to fall asleep but once this is achieved, the quality of sleep is good

  • Poor quality sleep - on the other hand, there are those who have no problem getting to sleep but are light sleepers, waking up often with the slightest noise. Once awake, they have difficult falling back to sleep

  • Waking up early - this may or may not be a problem. Some people enjoy waking up at the crack of dawn to get on with their daily lives, uninterrupted by others. However, others who wake up early could suffer from low mood  or depression.

Causes of Sleep Problems 

  • Problems with sleep can be caused by a large number of factors. Despite this variety, they can in general be placed into two categories:

  • Lifestyle  – these cover many factors from the environment in which you sleep in, the amount of           you are coping with to your age. Having a new-born baby is definitely a change in lifestyle and is a common cause of sleep deprivation, and work stress is thought to contribute to the estimate that 60% of workers have their worst night's sleep on a Sunday

  • Minor medical conditions – there are a number of medical conditions which could prevent you from sleeping well, ranging from a                       to menopausal symptoms, having an enlarged prostate and pain.

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