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Health Promotion:

Sleeping Well

Sleeping is, perhaps, the most under-rated and poorly understood of our activities. And yet it is probably the most important to us.

If you have any doubt, read the book "Why we sleep - the new science of sleep and dreams" by Prof Matthew Walker. It will shock and amaze you and could - and probably should - change your life. Indeed, it could even save your life! It is a very readable and compelling summary of all the research, facts and theories behind sleep and what it, or its lack, does to us. And written by a neuroscientist it has the badge of authority.

There are loads of myths that need busting and lots to learn. We need a minimum of 7.5 hours a night, meaning we need to aim for 8hrs. Anyone who says they get by with less is either harming or misleading themselves. You cannot make up for lost sleep. Drowsy driving is responsible for more road deaths than drink-driving. Insufficient sleep impairs the immune system and pretty well every biological pathway and makes you tired, lack concentration and energy, unhappy, unhealthy (possibly more so than smoking and alcohol), perform poorly at work, have headaches, dizziness, depression, associated with diseases such as dementia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and can contribute to premature death.

The book includes strategies to improve poor sleep habits without resorting to medication (which are not the answer at all).

The NHS.UK pages on sleep, insomnia and tips on how to combat this common problem are very helpful.

Try Beditation - yoga for sleep

Here is a sleep diary which can be useful to help identify the problem.

Sleepio is a free App approved by the NHS which is proven to help and is based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). It forms a weekly course and a toolkit and forum and we recommend you give it a go.

13 Tips for Improved Sleep Hygiene

(for those with a problem)

  1. Keep regular bed-times.
  2. Avoid caffeine containing drinks (tea, coffee, chocolate, some soft drinks including Coke and some energy drinks) from the afternoon onwards but especially in the evening and restrict the total amount in the day.
  3. Avoid nicotine in the evening (including nicotine gums, inhalators etc).
  4. Avoid alcohol before bed (it can disrupt sleep later in the night and alters the quality of sleep).
  5. Avoid a large meal before bed - a light snack is OK and a warm drink - non caffeine- can be helpful.
  6. Do regular (even mild) exercise but avoid in the 2 hours before bed.
  7. Have a routine for gradually winding down and quieting yourself before bed. Maybe have a warm bath.
  8. Practicing yoga or meditation or having a good relaxation routine each night promotes the expectation of sleep.
  9. Stop thinking about work or your problems in the time leading to bed.Turn your mind to lighter matters. Practice mindfulness or mental exercises.Keep the bedroom calm and tidy, quiet and dark and banish the dog or cat. Have a comfy mattress, pillow and sheets.
  10. Keep the temperature 'medium' - not hot or cold.
  11. Spend time in natural light in the daytime and gradually darken the house before bed-time.
  12. No TV or computer in the bedroom and stop watching an hour or more before bed. Don't read an exciting book. Don't eat in the bedroom, it's just for sleeping (and sex!).
  13. If you have worries in your head, get up and write them down rather than let them go around in your head. The you can then allocate time to sort out these problems in a planned way in the daytime.

If you cannot sleep, get up and do something quiet and relaxing until you feel sleepy.

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