Laying insomnia to rest with Flinders advice

sleepwellSleep Well, Live Better is a book that aims to help the five to 10 per cent of the population – that’s up to two million Australians – who have problems with getting to sleep or staying asleep through the night.

Written by Flinders psychologists Professor Leon Lack and Dr Helen Wright, the book explains the basics of sleep, describes how sleep cycles and patterns change as we age, and identifies the various types of insomnia.

Based on a book originally published in 2004, the new version has been expanded to include step-by-step practical treatment methods that draw on recently trialled techniques.

“It’s intended to be a self-help book, so that anybody – therapists or the general public – can pick it up, diagnose their own insomnia problems and find the appropriate treatment,” Dr Wright said.

The authors have about 40 years between them of clinical treatment and research in the field of sleep problems and insomnia.

Professor Lack said their depth of experience enables them to give appropriate weight to the various types of treatment, which is lacking in many of the numerous books devoted to insomnia.

Professor Lack said, for instance, that many medical practitioners and the general public place a lot of emphasis what is known as ‘sleep hygiene’, a range of measures that may include warm baths, avoiding caffeine and observing a consistent bedtime.

“There’s no evidence that sleep hygiene has any benefit at all, and indeed most insomniacs practise these things already,” Professor Lack said.

If anything, he said, sleep hygiene can become a source of anxiety when it fails to work.

“It may be that they have delayed circadian rhythm or have developed some insomnia, and shouldn’t go to bed until they’re feeling sleepy,” he said.

Professor Lack said the book aims to get the relevant ideas across using the simplest possible language, free of jargon. The book also makes generous use of real case-studies to assist troubled sleepers in recognising their own problems.

And while the book’s primary audience is people who suffer chronic insomnia, it also has a preventative aspect.

“Even people who don’t have a sleep problem per se can learn more about sleep, and discover what is normal,” Dr Wright said.

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