SLEEPLESSNESS / INSOMNIA

What is it?


Insomnia is defined as difficulty getting off to sleep, or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. It's a very common problem thought to regularly affect around 1 in 3 people in the UK, and is particularly common in elderly people.

How common is it?


This is a common symptom affecting women going through the menopause. Studies suggest that between 40 and 60 % of women experience sleep disturbance during the menopause.

How do I know if I have it?


  • Have difficulty in falling asleep
  • Lie awake for long periods at night
  • Wake up several times during the night
  • Wake up early in the morning, and not be able to get back to sleep
  • Not feel refreshed when you get up
  • Find it hard to nap during the day, despite feeling tired
  • Feel tired and irritable during the day and have difficulty concentrating

Occasional episodes of insomnia may come and go without causing any serious problems, but for some people for example menopausal women, it can last for months or even years at a time.

Persistent insomnia can have a significant impact on your quality of life, affect what you are able to do during the day, your mood, and your relationships with friends, family and work colleagues.

How much sleep do I need?


This is a difficult one because we’re all different, and there are no official guidelines about how much sleep we should get each night. However, on average, a "normal" amount of sleep for an adult is considered to be around 7 to 9 hours a night. Children and babies may sleep for much longer than this, and older adults may sleep for less.

The key thing is whether you feel you get enough good quality sleep. If you are constantly feeling tired during the day and it’s affecting you everyday activities, then you are probably not getting enough sleep.

What causes insomnia?


Triggers for insomnia can include:

  • Stress/ anxiety
  • Uncomfortable bed
  • Sleeping environment that is too light or noisy, hot or cold
  • Lifestyle factors, such as jet lag, shift work, or drinking alcohol or caffeine before going to bed
  • Physical health conditions e.g. chronic pain
  • Some medicines e.g. antidepressants, steroids and epilepsy medication

What can I do about it?


There are a number of things you can try to help yourself get a good night's sleep if you have insomnia.

Do's

  • Do go to bed and wake up at a regular time
  • Do adopt a relaxing routine before bed time e.g. take a warm bath, listen to soothing music, Have a hot milky drink
  • Do make sure your curtains/blinds are thick enough to block out the light.
  • Do use ear plugs, and eye mask to prevent being woken up by light and noise
  • Do avoid caffeine (tea, coffee, cola drinks), smoking/nicotine, alcohol, large meals, heavy/rich foods, and exercise for a couple of hours before going to bed
  • Do write a list of concerns problems and ideas about how to solve them before going to bed, and try to ‘park’ them until the morning

Dont's

  • Do not watch TV, use phones, tablets or computers shortly before going to bed
  • Do not be tempted to nap during the day