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Insomnia is debilitating and is identified by habitual sleeplessness, wakefulness and restlessness, with more females affected than males. Between 10% and 30% of adults have insomnia and many of those affected are over the age of 65. The actual cause may be difficult to identify but insomnia can be triggered by a number of factors including worry, stress, underlying health conditions, and also alcohol or drug use. General worries about family or health can keep you awake at night, but insomnia is more often attributed to problems at work, financial difficulties or a stressful event, such as bereavement. However when insomnia continues after the problem has passed or been resolved we tend to associate going to bed with being awake, and this turns into a worry about not being able to sleep. To make matters worse our minds start racing, and especially if the bed is uncomfortable or the bedroom is too light, too hot, cold or noisy. Eating a heavy meal late at night, drinking alcohol before going to bed and taking stimulants such as nicotine (cigarettes) and caffeine (tea, coffee and energy drinks) or recreational drugs will prevent you getting a good night’s sleep.

Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night, so “sleep hygiene” which includes fixing regular times for going to bed and getting up in the morning can help. Working out a routine and sticking to it programmes the brain and internal body clock, and not taking a nap during the day and aiming to “wind down” before going to bed at a consistent time can help. Try to create a relaxing bedtime routine and ensure you have a comfortable sleeping environment. Experiment with ways to help you relax at bedtime, such as a warm bath (not hot), or writing “to do” lists, which will help clear your mind of worries. Or try some relaxing yoga like stretches, but do not do vigorous exercise because it has the opposite effect! Ideally your bedroom should be kept at a temperature of between 18C and 24C.

Speaking personally I find reading a book and listening to gentle, hypnotic music relaxes and prepares me for sleep, I don’t have TV or electronic gadgets such as my mobile or PC in the bedroom because they might light up or bleep in the night, disturbing my precious sleep! If noise disturbs you, consider investing in double glazing or cheaper still use earplugs.


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