Sleep

We all need our sleep but so many of us struggle with it in our lives.

If we are not getting enough sleep then we become irritable, distressed and eventually physically unwell.

But how much sleep do we need? The answer varies. Children need more sleep than adults, up to twelve hours per night. Therefore, it is vital to get children into an early bed routine and good sleep patterns which can sustain them through their teenage years and into adulthood.

As adults we need seven to eight hours of sleep per night. This should be sufficient as we need less sleep as we get older. Physical activity, health status, work demands, climate and even genetics, all effect how much sleep we need.

However, to check yourself you should examine whether you feel refreshed in the morning following your night’s sleep. The quality of the night’s sleep can be as important as the length. We need to have periods of REM (Rapid eye movement) sleep which are deep sleep cycle periods each night. This helps the body restore and re-energise.

Sleep problems are common and almost everyone will go through periods of poor sleeping patterns at different times in their lives.

 

Common reasons for sleep problems

  • Normal effects of aging
  • Medical reasons such as pain, medication, injury and needing to go to the toilet frequently
  • Bereavement or upset
  • Stress, worry and anxiety
  • Depression or low mood
  • Surroundings – comfort/lack of comfort
  • Disrupted sleep patterns or shift work

 

Tips for practice

The Do’s and Don’ts of Sleeping Rules

Do:

  • Go to bed at a regular time and get up at a regular time
  • Have a bedtime routine and some wind down time
  • Exercise regularly, but not late in the evening
  • Get up if you are worrying or not asleep after 3o minutes and do something – remember that sleep cycles change during our lifetime so don’t panic
  • Make sure your bed and bedroom are comfortable. Warm enough but cool enough to be sleep inducing
  • Check if your medication is affecting your sleep pattern

Don’t:

  • Worry about not getting enough sleep
  • Lie in bed worrying about problems
  • Use your bed for things other than sleep
  • Drink caffeine before bed
  • Eat before bed
  • Drink alcohol before bedtime
  • Go to bed automatically even if you are not sleepy
  • Take naps during the day (except for periods of sickness/increased stress)

Note: If you have consistently used all of these techniques for two to three weeks and are still struggling to sleep, consult your GP for additional help.

 

If you have a sleep problem, establish what type of problem it is by choosing which of these apply to you:

  • Getting to sleep
  • Waking too early
  • Staying asleep
  • Poor quality sleep

 

Knowing the problem can help with you finding a solution. For further information, advice and guidance, download this excellent resource:

“Sleeping Problems a self-help guide” NHS Northumberland, Tyne and Wear (2004)

© 2019 Anú Community Healthcare Ireland Ltd.