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Are you getting enough sleep?

Living with a chronic health condition or physical disability can be stressful, both physically and emotionally, and therefore disruptive to your sleep patterns. The amount and quality of sleep you’re getting contributes to your mental and physical health. If you’ve been feeling tired lately, you may not be getting the amount of sleep you need.

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

There’s a wide range of sleep time that is considered normal. While the average amount of sleep a person needs is around 7.5 hours per night, there are some people who do just fine on 5 hours per night. Other people need as much as 9 hours a night. The key is to find the right amount for you. The best way to tell is by seeing how you feel during the day. If after 7 hours of sleep you feel refreshed in the morning and awake during your daylight hours, then you don’t need more than that. If not, then you might be someone who requires an hour or two more.

What if I am not getting enough?

If you’re having trouble getting the right amount of sleep to feel refreshed it might be useful to look at your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe good sleeping habits. If you’re having trouble sleeping and feeling fatigued during the day, attention to some of these simple things may help.

Do’s to get a good night’s sleep

  • Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. You can train your internal body clock by maintaining consistent sleep and wake times.
  • Try and get regular exercise every day. There is good evidence that exercise improves sleep.
  • Make your bedroom comfortable by ensuring a cool temperature and keeping noise and outside light to a minimum.
  • Get into a ‘going to bed’ routine to train your body to prepare for sleep and follow the same routine each night.
  • Have a warm bath about an hour before bed. Raising and lowering your body temperature readies your body for sleep.
  • Learn a relaxation technique to help quieten your mind before bed.

Don’ts when trying to get a good nights sleep

  • Don’t go to bed too hungry or full. However a glass of warm milk or a banana contains natural sedatives (tryptophan).
  • Don’t stay in bed if you’re still awake after 30 minutes. Get up and do something boring. When you’re tired, go back to bed.
  • Don’t watch television in your bedroom, it requires active attention, listen to the radio instead as it’s a more passive activity.
  • Don’t smoke right before bed and avoid alcohol, as you mind ‘wakes up’ as alcohol wears off. Avoid caffeine for 4-6 hours before bedtime.

Many sleeping problems are due to bad habits built over a long period. So you won’t fix problems overnight. Different things work for different people, find what works for you and stick with it. Above all, don’t obsess about your sleep problems. One poor nights sleep is not a problem, just return to good sleep habits the next night. However, if despite good sleeping habits you still have difficulty, then see your doctor as something else may be affecting your sleep.

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