We don't usually need to think very much about sleep. It's routine. Even so, most of us sometimes just can't sleep properly. We call it insomnia. It's usually just for a short time, perhaps when we're worried or excited. When things settle down, we start sleeping properly again. If you can't sleep properly, it can be a real problem because we all need sleep to keep healthy.
How much sleep do we need?
This mainly depends on your age.
Babies sleep for about 17 hours each day.
Older children only need 9 or 10 hours each night.
Most adults need around 8 hours sleep each night.
Older people need the same amount of sleep, but will often only have one period of deep sleep during the night, usually in the first 3 or 4 hours. After that, they wake more easily. We tend to dream less as we get older.
There are differences between people of the same age. Most will need 8 hours a night, but some (a few) people can get by with only 3 hours a night.
The short periods of being awake can feel much longer than they really are. So you can feel that you are not sleeping as much as you really are.
What happens if I don't sleep?
An occasional night without sleep will make you feel tired the next day, but it won't affect your health.
However, after several sleepless nights, you will start to find that you:
* feel tired all the time,
* drop off during the day,
* find it difficult to concentrate,
* find it hard to make decisions,
* start to feel depressed,
* start to worry about not being able to sleep.
This can be very dangerous if you are driving or operating heavy machinery. Many deaths are caused each year by people falling asleep at the wheel while driving.
If it continues, lack of sleep can make you more likely to get high blood pressure, diabetes, overweight.
Stimulus control helps you to:
* strengthen the link of being in bed with sleeping - by only getting into bed when you feel tired, and only using your bed for sleep and sex;
* weaken the link of being in bed with doing things that are likely to keep you awake - like watching exciting TV programmes, doing work, or organising things;
* weaken the link of being in bed with worrying - if you can't sleep, instead of lying in bed worrying, you get up and do something for a while until you feel tired again.
Sleep restriction helps you to go to bed later. Too much time in bed can stop you from sleeping.
Progressive muscle relaxation helps you to relax your muscles deeply. One by one, you tense and then release the muscles of your body, working up from your feet to your legs, arms, shoulders, face and neck (163).
You can talk over any problems that may be interfering with your sleep. Your doctor can check that your sleeplessness is not due to a physical illness, a prescribed medicine, or emotional problems.
Cognitive therapy is a way of changing unhelpful ways of thinking that can make you more anxious, and so stop you from sleeping (163).
If you have sleep related issues Counselling and Psychotherapy may be provided via Skype and FaceTime in the comfort of your home, office or any place of your choice.