“I toss and turn for hours on end. No matter what I do I just cannot get off to sleep”
“I’m very restless through the night, often waking and not able to get back to sleep”
“I never feel like I had a proper night’s sleep. I sleep very lightly and seem to drift in and out of sleep”
Do any of these sound familiar? Do you suffer with sleep deprivation? Do you wake up in the morning feeling as tired as you went to bed? Then perhaps you need to sit up and wake up!
There could be many reasons or causes for sleep problems ranging from stress to more serious medical conditions, so it important to find out what is happening to prevent further problems to your health.
The amount of sleep required differs from person to person and throughout your lifetime. However, if there are specific problems that affect your sleep such as obesity, snoring, and stress then you need to take action and see your GP.
Before doing this, however, please read the following information, to ensure that there is not simple explanation for your poor sleep.
Understanding sleep and sleep proglems
Sleep problems are very common and are often referred to as insomnia. An American study found that only 5% of adults reported never having trouble sleeping. Another study found that as many as 30% of the adult population are affected by sleep problems. Sleep difficulties are particularly common in women, children and those over 65. In fact, roughly half of the elderly population, complain of insomnia. Therefore, to have trouble sleeping at some point is your life is quite normal.
There is an abundance of help available, including - Royal College of Psychiatrists, The Medical Advisory Body, and Patient UK (see links below) who provide advice on what to do to ensure a peaceful nights’ sleep. Diabetic.co.uk provides a tool to assess if you are suffering from sleep apnoea, which is where you stop breathing due to muscle weakness in the upper airway – one in four diabetics suffers with this. Patient UK, provide a step by step information including understanding sleep problems and what to do about them, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists also summarises action that can be taken as given below:
Sleeping too little (Insomnia)
You may feel that you aren't getting enough sleep or that, even if you do get the hours, you just aren't getting a good night's rest.
There are many everyday reasons for not sleeping well:
- the bedroom may be too noisy, too hot or too cold
- the bed may be uncomfortable or too small
- you don't have a regular sleep routine
- you partner has a different pattern of sleep from you
- you aren't getting enough exercise
- you eat too late - and find it hard to get off to sleep
- you go to bed hungry - and wake up too early
- cigarettes, alcohol and drinks containing caffeine, such as tea and coffee
- illness, pain or a high temperature.
More serious reasons include:
- emotional problems
- difficulties at work
- anxiety and worry
- depression - you wake very early and can'tget back to sleep
- thinking over and over about problems.
Here are some simple tips that many people find helpful:
- Make sure that your bed and bedroom are comfortable - not too hot, not too cold, not too noisy.
- Make sure that your mattress supports you properly.If it's too firm, your hips and shoulders are under pressure. If it's too soft, your body sags, which is bad for your back. Generally, you should replace yourmattress every 10 years to get the best support and comfort.
- Get some exercise. Don't overdo it, but try some regular swimming or walking. The best time to exercise is in the daytime - particularly late afternoon or early evening. Later than this can disturb your sleep.
- Take some time to relax properly before going to bed. Some people find aromatherapy helpful.
- If something is troubling you and there is nothing you can do about it right away, try writing it down before going to bed and then tell yourself to deal with it tomorrow.
- If you can't sleep, get up and do something relaxing. Read, watch television or listen to quiet music. After a while you should feel tired enough to go to bed again.
- Don't go without sleep for a long time - go to bed when you are tired and stick to a routine of getting up at the same time every day, whether you still feel tired or not.
- Caffeine hangs around in your body for many hours after your last drink of tea or coffee. Stop drinking tea or coffee by mid-afternoon. If you want a hot drink in the evening, try something milky or herbal (but check there's no caffeine in it).
- Don't drink a lot of alcohol. It may help you fall asleep, but you will almost certainly wake up during the night.
- Don't eat or drink a lot late at night. Try to have your evening meal early in the evening rather than late.
- If you've had a bad night, don't sleep in the next day - it will make it harder to get off to sleep the following night.
- Don't use slimming tablets - many of these will tend to keep you awake.
- Don't use street drugs like Ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamines - they are stimulants, and like caffeine, will tend to keep you awake.
If you try these tips and you still can't sleep, go and see your doctor. You can talk over any problems that may be stopping you from sleeping. Your doctor can make sure that your sleeplessness is not being caused by a physical illness, a prescribed medicine, or emotional problems. There is some evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be helpful if you haven't been sleeping well for some time.
Full information can be seen on the following websites: