This is the University of Sheffield Health Service screencast.
During this screencast we will cover what is normal sleep,
what causes sleep problems, do sleeping tablets help, and what
you can do to improve your sleep.
What is normal sleep? This is individual to the person and is
dependent upon several factors. Age is one of these factors.
So as we grow older we generally need less sleep.
Also you need more sleep the more physically active you are.
Most young adults need roughly 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night,
but some people can get away with as little as 3 hours.
Having the occasional sleepless night can make
you feel tired the next day, but won’t affect your health severely.
After several nights of sleeplessness, you may feel tired all the time
lack concentration, start to drop off during the day, lack motivation,
and start to feel down. If you have to drive or operate machinery,
sleeplessness can be dangerous and so we would advise caution in
So what can cause sleep problems?
There can be several reasons but commonly there are the following:
physical reasons: such as pain, high temperature, or having to go to the
toilet. Some medicines can cause sleep disturbance and it may be worth
checking with your pharmacist or doctor.
Emotional reasons: such as anxiety and stress. With low mood and
depression people can find it difficult getting to sleep, staying asleep, or
sleeping too much. Your surroundings play a big part in the sleep process
especially if your bedroom isn’t providing you with a relaxing environment
in which to sleep. Breaks from the normal daily routine can affect your sleep
pattern as well until they are restored, such as unusual shift patterns of work.
We are often asked if sleeping tablets can help, prescription-only sleeping
tablets are only used as a last resort if other measures have failed.
They are only to be used as a short-term option.
This is because sleeping tablets can leave you tired and irritable in the
morning, they can be dependence-forming and you can develop a tolerance
to them – so more tablets are needed to get you to sleep as time goes by.
Sleeping tablets available from the pharmacies are usually anti-histamines
commonly also used for hayfever and allergies. Some herbal tablets are also
advertised as being able to help you to sleep. You should discuss with your
pharmacist about precautions when taking these and again, they should be
only used as a short-term measure if other options have failed.
With regards to improving your sleep – we should think about this in 3 stages:
Before you go into to your bedroom,
when you are in your bedroom, and
if you wake up in the middle of the night.
Before you go into your bedroom, try to keep a regular routine with sleeping
so that your body knows where it is. Taking long naps during the day
or going to bed too early is tempting when you haven’t slept well the night before,
but it may end up confusing your body clock thereafter so try to keep yourself
awake or take only short naps.
General lifestyle measures help sleep such as regular daytime exercise,
avoiding or cutting down on stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine
cutting down on excessive alcohol consumption and lastly avoiding eating
or drinking alcohol late at night. But don’t go to bed feeling hungry!
When you are in your bedroom, try to put away your folder and laptop,
so that you don’t surround yourself with sources of distraction or worry
when you’re trying to get to sleep. Make sure that your room is comfortable -
it shouldn’t be too hot, cold or noisy. It should also be as dark as possible.
Look to see if your bed is comfortable enough. If it sags in the middle and
isn’t providing you with enough support then it may need replacing.
Allow yourself enough time to wind down and perform your usual nightly
routines – such as brushing your teeth, putting on your nightclothes etc.
It’s a good idea to read a non-work related book or listen to relaxing music.
You could try aromatherapy to help you to sleep or relaxation methods.
The University Counselling Service have published a free relaxation podcast
on their website and the University Health Service have hypnotherapy audio
CD’s available that can be purchased.
If you feel that emotional problems such as stress, anxiety or low moods are
affecting your sleep – you should see a doctor or a counsellor and discuss
matters further. The Counselling Service run free workshops in their ‘Skills
For Life’ programme – which provide help for people with writer’s block,
stress-busting for exams and many other issues relevant to student life.
If you do wake up in the middle of the night, and you find it difficult to get
back to sleep – don’t simply watch the hours tick by on the alarm clock!
Negative thoughts of how tired you’ll feel in the morning will only agitate
your mind and stop you from getting back to sleep.
If it’s a recurrent problem that’s keeping you awake – one solution may be
to get up and write the problem down on a piece of paper,
think about solutions, and any obstacles that may stand in your way.
Realising that you’ve done all that you can do at that moment in the night,
and setting out a plan for the next morning may help you to relax enough
to get back to sleep. You could also retry the relaxation methods such as
listening to soothing music, reading or having a warm drink.
Here are some useful sites for further information and for references.
Please keep your YouTube annotations turned on to view these.
This is the end of the Sheffield University Health Service screencast on sleep.
(End of narration)