Sleeping problems are common and can be caused by a variety of different factors. The medical term for sleep disturbances is insomnia and includes difficulty in getting to sleep, difficulty in staying asleep and not feeling refreshed in the morning. There are some simple things that you can do which may help – this is called sleep hygiene.
Insomnia is the sleep disorder most of us might experience; it is the feeling that you haven’t had enough sleep because you couldn’t get to sleep in the first place, or woke up frequently during the night or woke up early. You may also wake up feeling tired, sluggish and unrefreshed – what’s more, you’ll probably find you have problems functioning during the day too. As we age, our need for sleep reduces as our sleep patterns naturally change. In fact the highest level of insomnia happens in people aged 65 years and over.
There are two types of insomnia; primary, where the loss of sleep is the main problem and your inability to sleep is caused neither by a physical nor mental illness, or results from the side effects of medication you might be taking. Secondary insomnia happens when your sleep problems are caused by another factor.
You may have primary insomnia, when your inability to sleep is caused neither by a physical nor mental illness:
- You have difficulty falling or staying asleep,
- You feel unrefreshed the next day after a night’s sleep,
- Your sleep disturbance hindering your day-to-day activities, or relationships
For people with insomnia, the first step in improving sleep is putting into practice some simple sleep hygiene measures, or lifestyle and environmental changes that may help you sleep.
Some examples are:
- Improve your sleep environment, for example by ensuring that the bed is comfortable and the bedroom warm, quiet and dark.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even after a poor night’s sleep.
- Do not stay in bed if you are awake for more than 20 minutes; go to another room and do some relaxing.
- Be as active as possible during the day and spend time outdoors if possible.
- Avoid taking naps during the day, otherwise if you do nap, keep it to 20 minutes before 3pm.
- Try to wind down before attempting to go to sleep e.g. reading a book or magazine. Avoid playing computer games or working immediately before going to bed.
- Do not discuss or analyse problems in bed.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, especially in the evening.
- Try to lose weight if you are overweight.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes everyday (but at least 3 hours before bedtime).
- Reduce caffeine intake during the day and avoid caffeine containing drinks such as tea, coffee, cola and energy drinks after midday.
- Avoid heavy meals or strenuous exercise in the evening.
A sleep diary is a daily log that can be used to record the length and quality of your sleep. Keeping a diary can help you and your doctor learn more about your sleep patterns and uncover ways to improve your sleep.
Click here to print the Circadin® Sleep Diary.