Sleep Hygiene & Insomnia

Sleep Hygiene & Insomnia

 How much sleep do you actually need? :

  • A healthy adult usually needs around 7-9 hours of sleep. Teenagers, children and babies need more than this as they are still growing, but this varies too.

 Below are some things you can look at to help you consistently get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling rested.

 Establish a routine:

  • Preparing for sleep begins from when you wake up. Eating a good diet and getting regular physical exercise during the day can help you sleep better at night
  • Exercise should however be avoided within 4 hours of bedtime as it can be stimulating and keep you awake, but is useful to help you sleep at night if exercise is done earlier in the day.
  • Expose your eyes to natural sunlight in the morning to help establish your body’s sense of routine for going to sleep later that night. Ideally view sunlight within an hour of waking up for at least 10 minutes if it is a bright day or at least 30 minutes if the weather is overcast. DO NOT look directly at the sun as this can be damaging to your eyes.
  • Pick fixed times for going to bed and getting up to establish routine. Ideally this will be the same every day, including weekdays and weekends.
  • Have a set time to start winding down and relaxing for bed. Try reading, having a warm bath, listening to soft music or a podcast, or guided sleep meditation to help prepare yourself for going to bed.
  • Avoid electronic devices for at least two hours before bed, including mobile phones / tablets / computers, as the light from these reduces your body’s ability to make melatonin, an important chemical for sleep.
  • Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime. Ideally they should be at least 2 hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine (from coffee or tea), alcohol or nicotine if you can as these are all stimulants and can make getting the truly restful part of sleep more difficult, even if you feel you still fall asleep okay. Caffeine should be avoided after midday. Alcohol and nicotine should be avoided for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid spending time in the bedroom during the day if you can, keep this area purely for sleep and intimacy. Go only to the bedroom when you are sleepy, which includes not going to bed too early. Similarly, if you feel sleepy don’t push through this and try to go to bed later
  • Avoid napping during the day
  • It’s normal for many people to feel really alert about 1 hour before their bedtime, don’t worry, it will pass.

 Build the right environment for sleep:

  • It’s easier to sleep when the room is silent, try wearing earplugs to bed and making sure your phone is on silent or out of the room entirely.
  • Some people do find it helpful to listen to soft ambient sounds like rainfall, gentle music or white noise to fall asleep.
  • It’s easier to sleep when the room is completely dark, make sure you have good curtains or blinds to keep light out and avoid extra lights by keeping clocks out of view (also so you can’t check them while trying to sleep) and phones facing down if not out of the room entirely
  • Avoid bright overhead lights for 1-2 hours before bedtime, ideally use dimmed lamps rather than overhead lights when you can.
  • It’s easier to sleep when the room is cool and well ventilated as your body needs to reduce its temperature very slightly (1-3 degrees) to sleep effectively, bear this in mind when layering or removing blankets.

 Be mindful of how you are feeling:

  • Anxiety, worry and stress can affect the quality of your sleep
  • If you lie awake worrying in bed, try setting aside time before bed to make a to-do list for the next day to put your mind at rest
  • If you need to seek further help with anxiety or stress please contact your GP practice to discuss how we can help
  • If you’re lying awake and struggling to sleep, do not try to force it, instead just enjoy the feeling of resting in bed and sleep may naturally take over. However, if sleep isn’t happening and you’re not finding it restful to lie in bed then try instead getting up and sitting in a comfy place doing something relaxing like reading a book or listening to quiet music; only go back to bed when you feel sleepier.

 Useful Resources: