Sleep Advice

Top Tips for sleeping better, taken from Dr Hugh Selsick from the Insomnia Clinic at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine/UCLH

1. Whilst insomnia has an impact on quality of life similar to depression and heart disease, it cannot kill you and it does not shorten your life despite the scare stories in the media.

2. Many people do not need 8 hours sleep a night, the average in the West is 7.5 hours with variation above and below that. Aim for quality of sleep not the ‘right ‘number of hours slept. The right amount is the amount of sleep that makes you feel alert most of the day most days.

3. Your getting up time is more important than your going to bed time. Get up at the same time every day of the week, no matter how well you have slept, or what time you went to bed. This way you will start accumulating tiredness at the same time each day and will gradually come to feel sleepy around the same time each day.

4. Do not nap. If fatigue is the fuel that drives sleep then every nap is like stealing some of that fuel from the night. It is better to push through the sleepy periods during the day and save that fatigue for the night. Once your sleep improves it will be easier to avoid napping. If you simply have to because you are dropping , limit the nap to 20 minutes , before 4pm.

5. Never go to bed until you are sleepy. If you try to go to bed when you are not sleepy and lie in bed awake, this will reinforce the idea that your sleep is ‘broken’. If you go to bed when sleepy you will have a better chance of falling asleep quickly and staying asleep.

6. Initially when trying to fix your sleep, spend less time in bed, not more. Set an ‘earliest bedtime’ and don’t go to bed until that time is reached and you are sleepy. Each week you should move the earliest bedtime 20 minutes later until you reach the bedtime where you are falling asleep within 20 minute and sleeping fairly solidly through the night. At this point you can reverse the process and start moving your earliest bedtime 20 minutes earlier each week, if you wish.

7. Things allowed in the bedroom: sleep, sex, getting dressed and undressed.

8. Things not allowed in the bedroom: TV/radio, computer, talking on phone, texting, exercise, ironing, studying, paying bills, reading, meditating, arguing, etc.

9. If you go to bed or wake in the middle of the night and are not to sleep or back to sleep within 20 minutes, then get up and leave the room to do something relaxing and enjoyable: watching TV, listening to a podcast; do not drink caffeine at this time. When you are sleepy go back to bed, but if you are not back to sleep within 20 minutes, again, get up and leave the room to do something relaxing and enjoyable. Repeat as many times as necessary until you do fall asleep within 20 minutes

10. These techniques work, but slowly and initially your sleep may worsen; the payoff for reduced sleep in the short term is better sleep in the long term. Repeat the mantra ’I am not doing this to sleep better tonight. I may actually sleep worse tonight. I am doing this to sleep better in a month and beyond’