Scroll down for more information on sleep, and for potential treatments to help with your sleep.

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Info on Sleep

Around one in three of us will experience occasional sleep problems at some point in our lives. Longer lasting sleep problems are also common and affect around one in every ten people.

These problems come in many shapes and sizes. For some serious problems you may need to work out what the underlying causes are and the type of treatments that could work for you.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

How much sleep you need is difficult to determine. Your age and your genes have some influence, but other factors still remain unknown.

As a rough guide the National Sleep Foundation has produced a useful chart, which you can find here.

As you can see, there is a wide variation in the amount of sleep that may be appropriate depending on your age. Teenagers, children and infants generally need a lot more sleep. Following our teenage years, the sleep requirement generally remains steady but the pattern of how this sleep is attained may vary (e.g napping as an older adult)

You can get an idea of how much sleep you need by filling in a sleep diary. Work out the number of hours you have slept each night and how you feel the next day to help determine the optimum number of hours for you.

You can download a free sleep diary here.

How Harmful is Lack of Sleep?

In experiments where researchers deprived people of sleep for a short period of time, they found that participants generally experienced problems with concentration, attention and memory.

  • Long-term poor sleepers seem to partially adapt to sleeping less, so short-term problems from not enough sleep are not always as obvious. 
  • Insomnia has been associated with being overweight and with increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

However we can’t say for sure whether these conditions definitely arise because of long-term effects of poor sleep due to the following reasons:

Many people with insomnia are unaffected in these ways

The need to sleep varies so much between people

Reported sleep is often not accurate (whether using sleep diaries or activity monitors)

Links between sleep and other health problems often either share a common cause, such as genes that affect sleep and mental health, or the mental health problem and quality of sleep may have a effect on one another

Getting Help

You should see your GP if you are having persistent problems with sleep (problems that have lasted more than one month) that are affecting your everyday life. If your sleep problems are due to an underlying condition (e.g. menopause, thyroid problems), your GP will address that first.

Some people may have problems because they feel sleepy much earlier than other people. Others feel sleepy much later and wake much later than most people.

If either of these sound familiar, your problems may be related to your body clock. Therapies such as bright light therapy and melatonin therapy may help.

If your sleep problems are linked to hyperarousal (e.g. stress) then stress reduction strategies, increased time unwinding before bedtime, mindfulness, and yoga may be helpful.

Useful Links

The Sleep Council -

This website offers educational leaflets, 30-day sleep better plan, a useful sleep diary, and guides to solving different sleep problems

National Sleep Foundation -

An American website, it offers lots of discussions around sleep issues, educational resources and a useful sleep diary for CBT


Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

  • For some people, insomnia can become chronic and last for months or more. CBT-I primarily focuses on encouraging behaviour to improve sleep quality but also includes strategies to deal with thoughts that may be interfering with sleep problems (e.g. excessive worries about the consequences of poor sleep)

CBT-I aims to regulate your body clock, maximise your sleep drive and reduce hyperarousal by bedtime and during the night. It usually also includes sleep hygiene advice as well as muscle relaxation techniques.

Improving your Body Clock and Sleep Drive

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule - get up at the same time even on weekends!
  • Avoid naps during the day if possible - otherwise limit to less than 20 minutes and not after mid-afternoon

Stimulus Control

Only use your bedroom for sleep and sex - not for working or watching TV.

Only Go to Bed When Sleepy

15 minute rule!

  • This technique ensures that you associate your bedroom with sleep, rather than lying awake at night. If you cannot get to sleep within 15 minutes, leave your bedroom then only return when you are sleepy. Make sure you just estimate 15 minutes, don’t clock watch!

Sleep Restriction

This technique aims to maximise the amount of time you are asleep when in bed, your ‘sleep efficiency’. For example, someone who goes to sleep at 10pm, falls asleep immediately, and wakes up at 6am has a sleep efficiency of 100%.

  • In the sleep restriction technique, you wake up at the same time each day and set your bedtime depending on the total hours you normally sleep (from your sleep diary).