1 in 3 people in Britain will at some point experience problems with sleep. This can sometimes cause physical and psychological effects if unmanaged.
How much sleep do you need?
The amount of sleep an individual requires varies. However as a guide:
• Adults should get 7 to 9 hours
• Children should get 9 to 13 hours
• Toddlers and babies should get 12 to 17 hours of sleep
Common causes of insomnia:
• stress, anxiety or depression
• shift work
• uncomfortable beds
• a room that’s too hot or cold
• alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
• recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy
• jet lag
How to treat insomnia yourself
Sleep at regular times
Sleeping at regular times allows the brain and internal body clock to programme itself into a set routine. It is important to try and wake up at the same time every day. It may seem like a good idea to have a lie in after a bad night but doing this regularly can disrupt you sleep routine.
Relax at least 1 hour before bed
Taking time to wind down before bed is important. You can for example, take a bath or read a book. It is also advised to avoid using smartphones, tablets or other electronic devices for an hour or so before you go to bed as the light from the screen on these devices may have a negative effect on sleep.
Ensure that your room is relaxing
Your bedroom should be sleep friendly. This includes making sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet – use thick curtains, blinds, an eye mask or ear plugs. Additionally, ensure that your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable.
Exercise regularly during the day
Avoid smoking, alcohol, tea or coffee at least 6 hours before sleep. Additionally, try not to eat a big meal late at night and do not exercise at least 4 hours before bed. Avoid naps in the day and do not drive when you feel sleepy.
See a GP if:
• changing your sleeping habits / other treatments e.g over-the-counter sleep aid, is not working
• you have had trouble sleeping for long periods of time
• your insomnia is affecting you daily activities and is hard to cope with.
Written by: Genevieve Boateng (MPharm)