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What is sleep?
Sleep is a natural and essential part of our lives. We all feel sleepy after a long day, this is the body’s normal response, and a good sleep helps us to recharge and recover. A poor night’s sleep can leave us feeling tired and sluggish and unable to fully enjoy the day ahead.
What is normal sleep?
Everyone’s sleep pattern is different, some people can get by on 5 hours sleep a night. Others need 8. The amount of sleep you need will change throughout your life. However, research indicates that between 7-9 hours’ sleep is best for your physical and mental health. The quality of your sleep is also important.
Do not worry if you occasionally have a disturbed night’s sleep, this can happen to everyone and is completely normal. However, prolonged periods of poor sleep can begin to negatively affect our lives; tiredness can persist into the day and our daily routines can begin to feel unmanageable. This can also have a negative effect on our mood and the way that we see the world.
Sleep problems people experience include:
Difficulty falling asleep, for example spending 30 minutes or more trying to get to sleep.
Difficulty staying asleep, waking up several times in the night and dozing rather than falling into a deep sleep.
Waking up too early in the morning and being unable to go back to sleep.
These are common sleep problems, and most people find they typically sort themselves out in a month. Knowing how much sleep your body needs and what helps you to have a restful night’s sleep is important. Sometimes small changes can make a difference. See our top tips below.
Self-help advice to improve your sleep
Create a consistent bedtime routine, such as going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. After a while your brain will recognise it is time to sleep.
Avoid electronic devices (televisions, mobile phones, media tablets) immediately before going to bed. Exposure to the light these devices produce can stimulate the brain and make it more difficult to switch off and sleep.
Ensure the room you sleep in is dark, comfortable, quiet and not too warm.
Try to relax in the hour before bed, for example reading a book, having a bath or shower.
In the day, try to get some day light as this will help you regulate your internal body clock or circadian rhythm. Light tells our body clock that it should be awake. Dim the lights in the evening too, to signal to your body that nighttime is approaching.
Getting regular exercise can help improve sleep but avoid exercise near bedtime.
Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bed. Caffeine can reduce the quality and length of your sleep leaving you feeling tired the next day. This can lead to increased caffeine consumption, which can continue a vicious cycle of poor sleep.
Avoid alcohol. While alcohol may make you feel drowsy, the quality of your sleep will be affected. You are likely to have more restless, lighter sleep and less restorative deep sleep.
Avoid eating a large meal or a sugary snack late in the evening.
Find out more about sleep problems and how to manage them, by visiting our self-help resources below. Learn new skills which can help you manage your sleep by visiting our courses section below.
Learning about your sleep pattern can be helpful and enable you to manage your sleep. You could try keeping a sleep diary recording:
How much sleep you had,
How you felt in the morning,
Anything that may have happened during the previous day which could have affected your sleep negatively, e.g., problems at work/home, too much to drink before bed.
Anything you have done the previous day that could have improved your sleep, e.g., a walk or other form of exercise, having a warm bath before bed.
When to contact your GP
If your sleep problems occur several times a week, have persisted for months despite implementing healthier sleeping habits, then you could speak to your GP. They will be able to offer further help and advice to get your sleep back on track. They will also be able to discuss any other factors which could be contributing to your sleep problems – such as stress, problems with mood or alcohol consumption.
Last updated: 02.09.2022
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Courses to help you improve your sleeping habits
Below you will find several courses to help get your sleep back on track and improve your life quality.
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