Most people have difficulty getting to sleep from time to time. This is quite normal and usually nothing to worry about. However, some people struggle to get to sleep (or stay asleep) on a regular basis. This is often called insomnia or sleep disorder. It is something that affects different people in different ways.
How much sleep do people need?
It is commonly said that we all need ‘our 8 hours’ of sleep. This is the average for most people, but we are all different. How much sleep we need is influenced by our age, physical health, and how busy we are during the day. Age is a particular influence. Children and teenagers need more sleep, but this need decreases during adulthood and into older age.
What can interfere with good sleep?
Before reading the list below, remember that we are all different. Some people can happily drink an espresso just before falling asleep!
– How we feel: worry, anxiety, recent major stresses such as bereavement.
– Where we sleep: too hot, too cold, too light, too noisy.
– Our health: Stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine taken close to bedtime can make it difficult for some. Certain medications and drugs can have the same effect. Alcohol can make us feel sleepy early on but can lead to a restless night.
When should I be concerned about my sleep?
The first thing to remember is that sleep disorders are more than just an occasional bad night. If any of the following apply, you might wish to discuss your sleep with a healthcare professional.
– You have had problems for several (3 or more) nights every week for 3 months or more.
– You feel tired all day (it is normal to feel tired for a while in the middle of the day).
– You fall asleep during the day, especially if you fall asleep without planning to i.e., while watching TV. This may be a sign of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.
– You cannot settle at night because of a restless feeling in your limbs that was not there during the day.
If you do not have any of these features, it is much less likely that you have a sleep disorder. The advice on these pages may help you get back to your usual sleep but be kind to yourself; things are likely to recover by themselves without needing to make big changes.
Real Life Experience
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Content updated 26/06/2023