Most of us need around eight hours sleep each night to function well, and to stay healthy, happy and balanced. Not getting sufficient sleep can make you feel low, grumpy and affect your mental wellbeing. Long-term insomnia can have a serious impact on your health, potentially leading to heart disease, obesity and diabetes. 

Sleeping well

How much sleep do I need? 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average recommended sleeping times differ according to age:

  • Younger adults (18-25) should have between 7-9 hours' sleep
  • Adults (26-64) should have between 7-9 hours' sleep
  • Older adults (65+) should have between 7-8 hours' sleep.

NHS Choices offer an online sleep self-assessment to see if you're getting enough sleep, and offer guidance if you feel you're having problems.  

 

Tips to sleep better

Optimise your sleep so you can be productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy all day long.  Many different factors can have an impact on our sleep - from our daily habits, to our sleep environment, and our ability to relax.

Your daily routine

  • Ensure you're getting the right nutrition by eating healthily 
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine close to bedtime
  • Stay away from large meals at night
  • Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening
  • Exercise during the day
  • Try to get outside into natural daylight for at least 30 minutes a day.

Relax, wind down and clear your mind

Have a bedtime routine where you relax the mind and body. For example you may like to take a bath, listen to gentle music, or do some simple stretches.

Yoga and mindfulness are excellent ways of learning to calm your mind and wind down through breathing, and special relaxation exercises. You could also try positive visualisation and listening to calming music. If you have a tablet or smart phone, there are a number of useful apps available to help you relax and get to sleep.

 

Your surroundings

Prepare your bedroom for a good night’s sleep. Make sure that:

  • your mattress and pillow are comfortable
  • your room is as dark as possible
  • turn off electronic gadgets - their lights and sounds may disturb you
  • check your room temperature is not too hot  - most people sleep best in a slightly cool room of around 65F or 18C.

Getting help

Many health conditions including Dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, multiple sclerosis and others can affect your sleep. Pain, restless leg syndrome, teeth grinding, trauma and psychological conditions can also have a negative impact on sleep.

If all else fails, there are sleeping aids available, but medication only offers short-term relief. If you are experiencing on-going sleep problems, speak to your GP. There may be things you could do to help yourself, or it can be worth checking to see if there's an underlying cause for your problems.