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What is insomnia?

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Occasional sleep disturbance is, of course, very common and one might say very normal. Everyone experiences difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep at some time in their life. In fact, it is estimated that around 1/3 of people at any one time suffer from at least one insomnia symptom.

Night‐to‐night, insomnia is characterised by a vicious cycle of negative thoughts, emotions and behaviours that lead to nights spent tossing and turning, worrying about how one will cope the next day.

Alongside the nighttime effects of insomnia, people will often experience significant daytime distress or impairments, with days spent worrying about the night to come.

What causes insomnia?

Some people are able to pinpoint events in their lives that they feel prompted their problems with sleep. Most often though, sleep disturbance is the result of a combination of circumstances, which can be categorised into ‘predisposing’, ‘precipitating’ and ‘perpetuating’ factors.

Predisposing factors -­ a predisposition may increase the likelihood of something occurring. When thinking about insomnia, these could include having a family history of poor sleep, or generally being a ‘worrier’.

Precipitating factors -­ another word for these could be ‘triggers’ and may include lifestyle changes, sudden illness or the birth of a baby, for example. In fact, many people who struggle with poor sleep can identify a specific trigger for their sleep disturbance. These tend to be centred on family, work or school and health.

Perpetuating factors ­‐ these cover any factors that might be seen to maintain or even exacerbate a problem. It may also be the case that the behaviours or coping strategies (eg, napping during the day) may be involved in the maintenance of a problem.

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