March is National Bed Month, an initiative aimed at encouraging people to do what they can to get a good night’s sleep.
While many people are fortunate enough to have a regular sleep pattern, insomnia is a real problem for others. Around one in three people are estimated to have sleep problems at some point in their lives.
Sleep disturbance can be one of the most common symptoms of mental ill-health. For many of the patients I see in the surgery, it can be a sign that they are struggling with stress or anxiety.
Unfortunately, lack of sleep can leave people in a situation where they find it difficult to function during the day and can become even more anxious, leading to another restless night.
Breaking the cycle of insomnia is vital and something that you can speak to a GP about.
Some patients have a predisposition for insomnia but others may struggle to sleep due to a change in circumstances, such as becoming worried about work or school, or having a new baby in the house.
In certain cases, ‘perpetuating’ factors can lead to insomnia becoming a longer term problem. This includes sleeping during the day after a poor night’s sleep.
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.
There are 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.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can also be helpful for insomnia and helps by allowing people to address the mental factors that keep them awake at night, such as “racing” thoughts.
Taking positive steps to prepare for a good night’s sleep can definitely make a difference to the lives of insomniacs too.
Avoiding stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine, such as tea and coffee, and reducing your intake of alcoholic drinks can be helpful
Another important tip is to try not to use digital devices and televisions immediately before going to bed. Switch off your mobile phone and try and make sure that you store it somewhere away from the bedroom.
Try not to exercise late at night and prepare yourself for bed with a relaxing routine, such as taking a bath or reading a book.
*National Bed Month is an initiative backed by The Sleep Council.