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Are you or your child having trouble falling asleep? Sleep deprivation can be caused by a variety of things and whether you just want to learn more, want advice or treatment, we are happy to help you.

What are sleep problems?

Sleep problems are a common problem that many people of different ages can suffer from. Having a bad night’s sleep from time to time is not problematic, but if you are regularly sleeping badly, you may want to seek help.

Many people experience some form of sleep problem. We spend about a third of our lives asleep and it is important that we get good quality sleep in order to feel good. Many people with sleep problems also start to worry a lot about their sleep and this can lead to a bad pattern. You may feel tired, have difficulty concentrating and become easily irritated.

More than half of adult Australians are suffering from at least one chronic sleep symptom that is affecting their ability to live a healthy, happy life, new research shows.

A report commissioned by Sleep Health Foundation reveals how common symptoms of insomnia is across the adult population. It found almost 60 per cent of Australian people regularly experience at least one sleep symptom (like trouble falling or staying asleep), and 14.8 per cent have symptoms which could result in a diagnosis of clinical insomnia.

The reasons for sleep problems can vary. During crises, people often have difficulty falling asleep, but it can also be triggered by everyday stress. Sleep problems are also common if you have neuropsychiatric problems such as ADHD, have young children or are in menopause. Children can also have sleep problems and you may need to work on this.

What set our therapist apart was her genuine empathy and personal insight. Not only did she possess a deep understanding of neurodiversity, but she also shared personal experiences that resonated with us, creating an instant connection and fostering a sense of trust!

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How much sleep do you need?

For people with sleep problems, the question of how much they have slept is often very important. They may be counting hours, worrying and watching the clock. The amount of sleep each person needs is individual and varies at different ages. Babies and young children, as well as teenagers, sleep more, while sleep for adults can vary between 6-9 hours per night.

How much sleep do babies, children and teenagers need?

The amount of sleep you need when you are young varies depending on your age. How well children and teenagers sleep can also be affected by developmental stages, concerns and relationships. Here is an approximate guide to how much sleep children usually need at different ages:

  • 0-12 months: 15-18 hours per day, but at this age there is a huge difference between children.
  • 1-3 years: 12-14 hours per day.
  • 3-6 years: 11-12 hours per day.
  • 6-12 years: 10-11 hours per day.
  • 12 years and older: 8-9 hours per day, but some children need more sleep during puberty.

Each child is unique and there are variations in sleep needs so it is important to individualize treatment. If a child is sleepy or overtired, such as irritability or difficulty staying awake during activities, it is good for parents to pay attention and adjust sleeping patterns accordingly. If parents are unsure or have concerns about their child’s sleep, they should consult a paediatrician.

Sleep deprivation in parents

For most people, having a baby is a big adjustment and a period where sleep can often be affected. A period of poor sleep is not dangerous, although it can be distressing, but around 20% of parents experience chronic sleep problems. Sleep problems are common during the final stages of pregnancy. Once the baby arrives, it may sleep restlessly and this also affects your own sleep. You may also find it difficult to adjust to the change. Some tips are to try to rest when the baby is resting during the day, share the responsibility if you are two parents, seek support from others close to you, try to accept the situation as it is and find other opportunities for recovery such as a walk, coffee with a friend or yoga.

If you feel that sleep is affected a lot during the toddler years, you can seek help to get more support. If you are very worried, you can also seek treatment from a psychologist or a child health care provider.

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Difficulty falling asleep with ADHD and autism

With neuropsychiatric problems such as ADHD and autism, sleep problems are common. It can be difficult to settle down in the evening with ADHD and have a lot of energy. It is important to have routines and to work on sleep if you have problems falling asleep. This is also true if you have autism, but then you may have difficulty sleeping because of too many changes and too much stimulation. If you have severe problems, you can get treatment or medication if necessary.

Tips if children have trouble sleeping

Treating children’s sleep problems often involves a combination of psychological treatment and establishing good routines. Here are some tips on how to deal with sleep problems in children:

Create a consistent sleep routine

Regularity is key. Have the same bedtime and wake-up times every day, including weekends. A predictable evening routine helps your child unwind and signals that it is time to sleep.

Create a calm and comfortable sleep environment

The room should be dark, quiet and cool. Use blackout curtains and make sure the bed and bedding are comfortable.

Relaxing evening routines

Include quiet activities such as reading a book, listening to quiet music, or taking a warm bath before bedtime. Avoid stimulating activities just before bedtime.

Limit screen time

Avoid screens (TV, computers, smartphones, etc.) at least one hour before bedtime. Blue light from screens can disrupt your child’s natural sleep cycle.

Encourage independent sleeping

Teach your child to fall asleep on their own without the parent’s presence. This may mean gradually reducing the amount of help they need to fall asleep.

Managing night-time awakenings

When children wake up during the night, there are different techniques. You decide if it is important to get your child used to falling asleep on their own, if you are sleeping well you don’t need to change anything.

Daytime activities

Make sure your child is active and out in the daylight during the day. Daylight and physical activity can help regulate your child’s sleep cycle.

Avoid caffeine and sugar

Especially in the afternoon and evening, avoid foods and drinks that can keep your child awake.

Relaxation techniques

For older children, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or gentle yoga can help them unwind.

Pay attention to sleep disorders

In some cases, sleep problems may be related to medical or psychological conditions. If sleep problems continue or are severe, you should consult a pediatrician.

Remember that every child is unique and what works for one child may not work for another. It may take time to find the strategy that works best for your child. If in doubt, seek help from a child psychologist or doctor.

Treatment of sleep problems

There are both medical and psychological treatments that can be effective for sleep problems. Psychological treatments include tools and strategies specifically developed to treat sleep problems and have been shown in research to be effective. Anxiety is also treated during sleep therapy, as people often have a lot of anxiety related to sleep. Treatment for sleep problems is:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy for sleep problems (CBT)
    CBT for sleep problems is an evidence-based method for improving sleep quality and reducing daytime fatigue. During treatment, you may complete a sleep diary and work on sleep hygiene and sleep routines. It also addresses anxiety and stress, including through mindfulness.
  • Medical treatment
    In some cases, medication for sleep problems can be prescribed, but it is important to note that this should be seen as a temporary solution. If you want to try medication, talk to your doctor.

Managing sleep problems on your own can be a challenge. Meeting with a professional therapist can help you understand the underlying causes and create a tailored treatment plan for you.

Taking a step towards better sleep and quality of life

If you or someone you know is experiencing sleep problems, help is available. Our licensed psychologists and therapists will help you every step of the way on your journey to better sleep and health. Don’t be afraid to take the step towards recovery, we make the hard things easier.

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12 frequently asked questions about sleep deprivation

What is sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is the experience of not getting enough sleep. Sleeping badly for a few nights now and then is not problematic, but if you are sleeping badly on a regular basis, you may want to seek help.

What are the causes of sleep deprivation?

Sleep problems can be caused by various factors. These can be lifestyle factors or external events such as crises, stress or anxiety, but there can also be underlying medical causes. Life changes such as having children or going through the menopause can also have an impact. Children can also have sleep problems.

How common is sleep deprivation?

Sleep problems are very common and can affect people of all ages. It is estimated that 60% of the population has some form of sleep disorder and it is present at all ages.

How much sleep do children need?

Sleep needs in children vary at different ages. Smaller children often need more sleep, but sleep needs are also individual.

Is it common to have trouble falling asleep if you have ADHD and autism?

It can be difficult to settle down in the evening when you have ADHD and have a lot of energy. It is important to have routines and to work on your sleep if you have problems falling asleep. This also applies to autism.

Is it dangerous to take sleeping pills?

Sleeping pills can be effective in the short term but they are not a long-term solution and can have side effects. Always consult a doctor before starting any medical treatment.

Are sleep problems common as a parent of young children?

Sleep problems are common during the toddler years, with around 20% experiencing sleep problems. There is help available if you need it.

Can sleep deprivation be treated?

Sleep deprivation can be treated and the best results have been seen with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

What is ‘sleep hygiene’?

Sleep hygiene is a set of habits and routines that contribute to better sleep. It includes things like avoiding screens and working on routines and doing relaxation.

How can I manage my child’s sleep problems?

Sleep problems in children are common and there are many tips you can follow. If you are unsure or want more support, you can contact a child psychologist or doctor.

How can stress and anxiety affect sleep?

Stress and anxiety are common causes of insomnia. It is possible to work with, for example, CBT for this.

How much sleep do I need?

Most adults need between 6-9 hours of sleep per night. However, sleep needs can vary from person to person.

What should I do if I have serious sleep problems?

At Lavendla, we have experienced psychologists and therapists working with CBT who can help you feel better. If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call emergency services on 000 or Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 (24 hour service).

How to treat sleep problems

In this step-by-step guide, we look at how a treatment for sleep problems can be treated using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

  • Step 1: Assessment interview
    During an initial assessment interview, we will review your history and you may be asked to complete forms such as the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), which measures sleep problems. For severe sleep problems or acute crises, a doctor can prescribe medication if necessary.
  • Step 2: Treatment with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
    If the problem is psychological, CBT is an option. During treatment, you will work on sleep hygiene, i.e. your sleep habits. You will also complete a sleep diary and work on strategies to get into your natural sleep rhythm. You can also work on your anxiety and stress through exercises and mindfulness.
  • Step 3: Follow-up and adjustments
    Follow-up sessions evaluate the effect of the treatment and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Step 4: Continued follow-up
    After the treatment, you will receive a plan to maintain your progress and to ensure a long-term effect.

How do I get help for my or my child’s sleep problems?

Do not hesitate to seek professional help. It is the first step to regaining a good night’s sleep and an improved quality of life. You are not alone and we are here to help you every step of the way. Book an appointment with one of our licensed psychologists or therapists today.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by melissa

Melissa is a Certified Kinesiologist who focusses on a client-centred, holistic and integrative approach to health and wellness. She has extensive experience in managing stress, anxiety, fears, phobias and trauma in her clients. Melissa uses visual and auditory feedback to directly access and solve the cause of psychological stressors in the body so that optimal well-being and balance is achieved.