Most people have problems getting to sleep at times. However, some people struggle to get to sleep, or find it hard to stay asleep on a regular basis. This is often called insomnia, and it is something that affects different people in different ways.
How much sleep do people need?
It’s commonly said that we all need ‘our 8 hours’ of sleep. Certainly this as about average for most. However people vary, and whilst some may feel they need less sleep, others will feel better with more. How much sleep we need depends on how stressed we are feeling, how busy we are during the day, our age (teenagers sleep a lot!) and our physical health.
What can interfere with good sleep?
Feeling worried or anxious can stop people from falling asleep, or getting back to sleep if they wake up. Some medications, alcohol and drugs can also interfere with sleep – for example, we know that alcohol can make us feel sleepy but it does not lead to a restful night.
Where we sleep is important – rooms should not be too hot or too cold, or too light.
What types of sleep problems are there?
Problems include getting to sleep – just not being able to drift off, staying asleep – waking during the night and being unable to get back to sleep, restless nights, where people wake up several times at night, and early wakening – waking up at a very early time and not being able to get back to sleep.
What can I do to help myself?
The most important thing is to think about why you have a sleep problem. Consider the points above – is it because of worry?
The patterns we have before going to bed can be important. Relaxing activities like having a bath or reading a book can help people to get off to sleep. Playing video games or watching action films is probably not helpful! Make sure the sleeping place is the right temperature and that there’s not too much light.
Try to go to bed at roughly the same time each night and to get up at the same time each morning – a routine like this can help.
Try to avoid nicotine other stimulants right before bedtime.
Finally, don’t let not being able to sleep become the worry that keeps you awake! No-one is awake for ever, and worrying about it will make the problem worse.
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