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Sleep 4 basics, FAQS

The 4 basics

Below is a very simple and quick outline on four basic principles that help with sleep.

Get a Routine and Relax

A ‘winding down’ routine can help prepare the body mentally and physically for sleep.

  • Cut down distractions, especially electronic ones
  • Think of 2-3 restful and soothing activities to make into a routine and signal ‘almost bed time’
    Example: Warm bath & gentle relaxing stretches, then get into bed.
  • Write any worries, niggling tasks or concerns on a piece of paper before getting into bed and set it aside for the morning/ another day to resolve.
  • Practice breathing and simple sleep meditation techniques to help you drift off

General Health Check

Having a good varied diet, suitable regular exercise and good mental wellbeing practice will all help go towards implementing and regulating good quality sleep.

  • Avoid caffeine, large meals and high sugar foods and strenuous workouts at least 2 hours before bed
  • Check with a physiotherapist for specific exercises to help you if you suffer any chronic health conditions or have issues with limited movement
  • Look into your local mental health services and practising at home techniques such as mindfulness and ACT. These therapies are good to use when facing particular life difficulties but also as regular mental well-being exercises

Check your Sleep Space

It may seem obvious but aim for a space that is conducive of sleep. This means keeping your sleeping area for sleep and so that you associate that room/ area with rest and sleep as part of your routine. Simple tips:

  • Find a dark room where possible with moderate or soft lighting
  • Clean bedding
  • A room with a good steady temperature to suit your needs
  • Keep the space tidy, that means keep electronics to a minimum and work items in another room.

Medication Check

Consult your pharmacist if you have any concerns over medication that may be affecting your sleep

Read our ‘Sleep Q & A’ for answers to frequently highlighted sleep queries and take the ‘Sleep Quiz’ to find out more about your sleep.

Sleep FAQ from the Pain Service team

Sleep is often viewed as one of the top 3 issues for people we see at the pain self-management service, and because sleep is so necessary to our health and general well-being it makes it a high priority in establishing the best quality of sleep possible.

The pain service believes it is key that you are happy with the amount of sleep you have and when you are getting it, you can do this by figuring out a routine that works for you and your lifestyle.

Read the ‘sleep - 4 basic principles’ to get started or our Q & A below for the most frequently highlighted queries and take the ‘Sleep Quiz’ to find out more about your sleep.

What do we know about Sleep?

Sleep varies between people, it is recommended that everyone has around 8 hours sleep a night but research has suggested 5 hours is adequate and that age and activity level has an impact. It can also depend on where you live in the world, for example Singapore suggests 7.5 hours and for Australia 8.1 hours of sleep.

Research shows that middle age men sleep the least, women under the age of 25 sleep the most, women generally sleep for 30 mins longer than men, going to bed earlier and waking later.

What about Naps?

We suggest avoiding naps in the day if you are having problems sleeping at night as it is best to have a clear distinction between night and day to help regulate and establish a healthy sleep pattern, however this may take several weeks to change.

If you do feel a nap is beneficial try to have a maximum of 30 mins and not too close to bedtime.

Should I stay in Bed when I can’t sleep at night?

NO! Try to avoid making an association between your bed and sleeplessness. Just getting out of bed, stretching, perhaps making a warming drink (no sugar or alcohol) and then going back can help.

If you are awake for 20-30 mins or more, get up and do something relaxing but avoid day time activities like watching TV and avoid potentially stressful items like work emails.

If someone has a bad night’s sleep, should they try to lie in / catch up?

The likelihood is it will be a poor quality of sleep if you try to ‘catch up’ or sleep extra at alternative times or days, this can often make you feel worse and increase the struggle to sleep at night.

We recommend trying to stick to set times so you are mentally and physically ready for sleep and you are establishing a clear distinction between night and day.

Can exercise help you sleep at night?

YES! Research consistently shows that movement and/or gentle regular exercise can help towards overall well-being including better sleep. However, we recommend not exercising within 2 hours of bedtime as it will increase alertness. Gentle ‘Movements’ or stretching are usually OK and can help your body relax.

Please don’t be afraid of movement – check out our ‘Exercise’ and ‘Managing Daily Activity’ information links for more information on movement and how to implement it safely.

Is there any food or drink I should avoid to help me sleep better?

We advise to avoid caffeine, meals and high sugar food items at least 2 hours before going to bed, as these may make it harder to sleep (think tea, coffee, coke, chocolate) although be mindful of your dietary needs. Some people find that avoiding caffeine and like stimulants altogether can be beneficial to them and their sleep patterns but it is best to reduce your intake gradually.

Always speak with your doctor or nutritionist if you wish to make significant changes to your diet.

What else can keep me awake?

Some people find that distractions such as books, TV, mobile games or music can help them to go to sleep, however due to email, texts, and electronic lights they can also have the opposite effect and be over stimulating.

Think about your ‘just before you go to sleep’ routine and remove any unwanted and unnecessary habits like ‘worrying’, using electronic, loud or bright devices.

Natural or bright lights can act as a wake-up call to your body, a room with soft lighting bulbs and good curtains/black out blinds may be helpful if you have an over lit sleeping area.

Can relaxation techniques help me sleep?

Relaxation techniques have been developed to help counteract painful sensations, a ‘busy mind’ or worrying thoughts that may be keeping sleep at bay. See our Mindfulness and Relaxation links for further information.

If you don’t mind using technology to help you drift to sleep you may wish to research some Apps, these sleep apps are being developed to help facilitate and monitor quality of sleep and some provide relaxation techniques and soothing sounds.

How can Alcohol affect my sleep?

Alcohol in excess (or anything more than the recommended daily limit) may knock you out to sleep initially but will likely be of poor quality.

Alcohol acts as a depressant, it can also contain high sugar and caffeine contents which affects your blood sugar levels, making you feel stimulated quickly but also low, tired and irritable and more likely to wake up at irregular intervals and de-hydrated.

Can Sleeping Tablets help?

Yes BUT usually best for short term patches of sleep issues. It is important that you develop other skills such as exercise, relaxation and a healthy diet

Do not stop taking any sleep tablets/ other medication suddenly unless advised by your GP or other health professional as this may cause unwanted side effects which can also affect your sleep.

Sleep Quiz

Can't sleep? Take our printable quiz to find out more about your sleep.

© Wye valley NHS Trust 2019