The UK is becoming a nation of insomniacs! Chances are you’re probably sleeping with your eyes open right this second and if so, you’re not alone. In fact, an estimated third of all British adults are reported to suffer from chronic insomnia. This is a growing trend, with doctors prescribing significantly more melatonin (the hormone that helps regulate sleep) than ever before.
But in many cases, simply taking a careful look at your lifestyle, diet and pre-sleep habits can have a massive and dramatic positive impact.
As with much of life, fail to prepare, and you’ll prepare to fail – so, wind down in the hour or so before bed by avoiding screens or anything stimulating, and instead have that hot bath, read a book, maybe listen to some calming music. Try to avoid caffeine in the late afternoon or evening, and maybe have a light carbohydrate-based snack after dinner, such a small bowl of porridge, to balance your blood sugar levels and help you to relax.
One other common misconception is that you can ‘store’ or ‘catch up’ on sleep – what’s much better is to consistently have around eight solid hours a night, ideally going to bed and getting up around the same time. Our bodies have in-built circadian rhythms and we really are creatures who thrive on habit. Weekend lie-ins won’t make up for poor sleep during the week.
One of the main causes of sleeplessness is back pain, so try to minimize this by buying a decent mattress – and make sure you change your mattress every 8-10 years. Also taking an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen before you go to bed (and after food) can help ease muscle spasms in the night, but if this is something you need to do often, talk to your doctor instead of self-medicating in the longer term. Try to avoid alcohol before bed, which might help you nod off quicker, but is a diuretic so will regularly make you have to get up to go to the loo in the early hours, and also disrupts deep sleep.
To help seal the deal, try a simple meditation ritual, which can relieve stress and improve the quality of sleep. Try this exercise: close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nostrils to a count of three while expanding your stomach. Hold for three seconds then exhale slowly through your mouth, counting to six whilst flattening your stomach. Repeat this five times.
Doctors can prescribe sleeping pills to help people with short-term insomnia, but these are not without their problems. They can be highly addictive and do not always provide restful sleep. These are only really suitable in short courses and as a last resort, but with proper medical guidance can help reset your system.
There are also some over the counter treatments which can help to establish a routine of sleep, but again, these should be used as a short-term aid. But don’t suffer in silence – do speak to your GP if you’re really struggling. No sleep medication should be taken long term, and each has its pros and cons, so always seek proper medical guidance before taking anything to help you sleep. And remember, whatever you’re prescribed, Pharmacy2U can provide free, convenient delivery of any prescription medication.
For more help and support, visit the NHS website: