Many people have difficulty sleeping at some point, and there are different types of sleep problems. They can be due to illness, changes to routine, anxiety or worries – about being alone, about the dark, or imaginary things likes monsters or ghosts.
Sleep problems could also be caused by worrying about:
- Friendships or bullying
- Family relationships
- Divorce or separation
- Changes in routine such as new school or moving house
Nightmares (bad dreams) are common in young people - dreams help you process what is going on in your life, including fears and worries you may have. They are usually nothing to worry about, but it’s worth talking through your bad dreams if you feel you need to.
Some medication can also affect your sleep as a side effect - this could include being more sleepy, finding it difficult to fall asleep or to stay asleep, or having vivid dreams of nightmares. If you think your sleep has been affected by a medicine you are taking you should discuss this with your doctor or pharamcist.
You might get into reversed sleeping patterns where you are awake at night and very sleepy during the day, which can interfere with your school work and be quite stressful.
Severe sleep problems could also be a sign of depression or ADHD.
Treating sleep problems
A stable bedtime routine can really help. Going through the same things every night, and planning to be asleep at the end of the sequence can be reassuring. Maybe a bath, a hot drink, things that help you relax and get into a regular sleep pattern.
Try not to do homework, watch TV, or use your computer or phone for 30 minutes before you go to bed and avoid caffeine and heavy exercise for 4 hours before bed.
Try to wind down before you go to bed, maybe by listening to calming music or reading a book, and try to get to bed at a reasonable time.
If the problem continues, you should talk to your GP, who will be able to offer further advice or may refer you to a specialist.
Symptoms of sleep problems
If you don’t get enough sleep, you may experience:
- Becoming more sensitive to things that wouldn’t normally bother you.
- Difficulty concentrating.
If your GP suggests that medication may help you, the HeadMeds website will provide you with more information about the medication they are recommending, how it works, how you should take it and how you might feel. It should also be able to answer any questions you might have about going on medication.
If you are prescribed medicines to help you sleep, ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should take them for. Some medicines for sleep should only be used for a few days or weeks otherwise they become less effective and it may also become harder to stop taking them.
I think it’s really important to understand that medications aren’t a ‘one size fits all’ type of thing.