When it comes to looking after our health, most of us are aware of the importance of having a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. But sleeping well is also a must if you want to look, feel and perform at your best – as anyone who’s ever had a bad night’s sleep will probably already know.
The amount of sleep we need every night is a subject that’s much debated, with eight hours often cited as the gold standard for sleep time. But the truth is how much sleep we need varies from person to person – according to the NHS, adults on average need between seven and nine hours a night to feel refreshed and to function well mentally and physically.
Yet one survey after another suggests we’re coming up short when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, with The Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime Report discovering 30 per cent of people sleep poorly most nights. Sleep Council figures also suggest most of us sleep for seven hours or less each night, with more than a third of us getting by on just five or six hours’ sleep.
If you’re a poor sleeper, statistics suggest you probably haven’t seen your doctor for help with getting a more restful night (The Great British Bedtime Report suggests only one in 10 people have consulted their GP about poor sleep).
However, your GP could help you get to the bottom of what’s causing the problem, which means they can decide how to treat it. Doctors rarely prescribe sleeping pills these days, as they can have serious side effects and you can become dependent on them. But if they feel it’s suitable your GP may recommend cognitive behavioural therapy, which is designed to help you change any behaviours that are stopping you from sleeping well.
In the meantime, this guide aims to give you information about self-help strategies you can try right now that may help you get a better night’s sleep.