Coping with insomnia

Most people will suffer from poor quality of sleep at some stage in their lives. But did you know over 2 million of Australians suffer from a clinical sleep disorder?

Insomnia is the most well known sleep disorder, but there are many others such as sleep apnoea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, Bruxism (tooth grinding), night tremors and sleep walking. When poor quality sleep becomes the norm it can seriously affect quality of life and health and wellbeing.


Insomnia is defined as difficulty in getting to sleep or staying asleep on a regular basis. It tends to be more common in women and is more likely to occur with age.

There are many causes of insomnia, including stress, anxiety, depression, asthma, certain medications, alcohol and poor diet.

There are however many things you can do to take control of your insomnia:

  • Limit intake of caffeine (coffee, teas, energy drinks, chocolate) especially after lunchtime

  • Avoid heavy meals late at night

  • Avoid using computers, watching TV or using your phone in the few hours before bed

  • Stay within the recommended alcohol limits

  • Set regular bed and wake times

  • Take time to unwind before bed – have a warm bath, read a book or listen to calming music

  • Optimise your sleep environment – room temperature should be around 18 degrees. Use blackout blinds to minimise light, and keep your bedroom clutter-free.

When to seek help

If your sleep habits are affecting your everyday life or are affecting your partner’s sleep, it’s advisable to seek help. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (a kind of therapy that involves changing thinking patterns and thought processes) has been shown to be effective in treating sleep disorders and is more beneficial than sleeping pills in the long-term. Your GP will be able to refer you to a specialist.

Written by Ruth Tongue
(MSc Nutrition)