Sleep Hygiene

Sleep is part of a normal routine for most of us and sleeping well is necessary for keeping healthy. Normally we do not have to think about it, but sometimes sleep can get disrupted for many reasons.

Usually the sleep disruption is short term and apart from causing tiredness the next day, you do not feel any other difficulties. But sometimes, when sleep disruption is prolonged than it can be very troublesome causing both psychological distress and physical health problems.

Sleep requirement varies between people. New born children sleep about 20-22 hours in a day, school going children about 8-10 hours, working adults 6-8 and older adults need 4-6 hours. Obviously, there are some people who may need more or less than these averages.

Usual causes for Sleeping Difficulties

Simple everyday problems-

  1. Poor Environment- noisy and uncomfortable bedroom, too hot or too cold
  2. Poor Sleep Routine- Shift Work
  3. No or less exercise
  4. Too much coffee, tea, soft drinks or alcohol
  5. Eating dinner too late
  6. Noisy Partner

More Serious Problems-

  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety
  3. Financial difficulties
  4. Health problems like- Heart Disease, Respiratory Disease, Endocrine Problems
  5. Medication side effects
  6. Pain

Things that can help Sleep

  1. Quiet Bed space and comfortable room environment
  2. Getting some exercise during the day
  3. Avoiding tea, coffee, cola based soft drinks after 5 in the evening
  4. Avoiding alcohol and cigarettes
  5. Switching off TV/laptops/mobile phones an hour before sleep- as the flickering light wakes up the brain
  6. Reading is a good way of relaxing and inducing sleep along with light music and aromatherapy (lightly scented candles or incense sticks)
  7. Only going to bed when eyes are droopy
  8. Avoiding late working
  9. Having dinner earlier in the evening
  10. Wake up at same time everyday, have a routine

Things that Don’t help Sleep

  1. Thinking too much in bed
  2. Having TV in bedroom
  3. Spending most day in bed
  4. Clock watching in bed- this increases anxiety
  5. Alcohol and street drugs
  6. Exercising late at night
  7. Hot drinks at night

Treatment

Your Doctor will take a detailed history of your problem and specifically look into your daily structure. They would probably undertake some investigations to rule out other medical conditions that can cause insomnia.

The cause of the insomnia needs to be treated. Sleeping tablets can only help in short term and only offer temporary benefits. Besides this they are also highly addictive medications and lose their efficiency with time as the patient’s get used to them.

Psychological therapies and having a routine structure are more and more becoming the treatment of choice and should be considered in all cases.