World Sleep Day

Friday 16th March 2018

Today is World Sleep Day! It is an annual event organised by the World Sleep Day Committee of the World Sleep Society and has been running since 2008.  World Sleep Day aims to celebrate the benefits of good and healthy sleep, to draw attention to the issues of sleep problems and to promote the prevention and management of sleep disorders. Sleep problems happen the world over and can impact on health and quality of life for as much as 45% of the world’s population.

When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed and alert for our daily activities. Sleep can affect how we look, feel and perform on a daily basis, and can have a major impact on our overall quality of life.

To get the most out of our sleep, both quantity and quality are important. The average adult needs between 7 – 9 hours a night of uninterrupted sleep to leave their bodies and minds rejuvenated for the next day.

Everyone has experienced the fatigue, short temper and lack of focus that often follow a poor night’s sleep. An occasional night without sleep will make you feel tired and irritable the next day, but it won’t harm your health. However, continued lack of sleep make the effects more serious.

If your sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all the phases needed for things such as muscle repair, memory consolidation and the release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. We wake up less prepared to concentrate, make decisions, or engage fully in work and social activities. You start to feel down, and may also fall asleep during the day. Your risk of injury and accidents at home, work and behind the wheel also increases.

Lack of sleep can also affect your overall health and make you more prone to serious medical problems such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Tips for a good night’s sleep

Sleep at regular times

A regular bedtime will help you wind down and prepare for bed, so the brain and your internal body clock get used to a set routine. Waking up at the same time every day (including weekends!) also helps. Work out what time you need to wake in a morning and work backwards to identify an appropriate bedtime.

Wind down before bed

Don’t do anything that stimulates your mind before going to bed. Try a warm (not hot) bath, or some relaxation exercises such as yoga. If you have things to remember, write them down so you are not worrying about them overnight. Reading a book or listening to music can also help with relaxation. Electronic gadgets should not be used before sleep or to read with as the light they emit can disrupt a good night’s sleep.

Make your bedroom sleep friendly

Keep your bedroom for sleep only – so no TV’s or other electronic gadgets. The bedroom should be kept dark and quiet and at a comfortable temperature. Investing in heavy curtains or black out blinds, or even a sleep mask will keep out the light. Ear plugs may be helpful to stop any noise. Make sure your mattress is comfortable.

Keep a sleep diary

It may uncover lifestyle habits or daily activities that are contributing to your sleeplessness. A sleep diary can also reveal underlying conditions that that will explain your sleeplessness, such as stress and medication.

What to do if you’re worried about your sleep

Contact your GP in the first instance. A sleep diary would help them diagnose your sleep problems and could help save time if you have already filled one in. Your GP may also refer you onto a sleep specialist.

Am I too sleepy?

Fill in the simple questionnaire below to work out how sleepy you are. A score of more than nine means that you are sleepier than you should be. A score of 16 or more is abnormally sleepy.

How likely are you to doze off or fall asleep in the following situations, in comparison to feeling just tired?

Even if you haven’t done some of these things recently, try to work out how they would have affected you.

Use the following scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation:

0 = would never doze
1 = slight chance of dozing
2 = moderate chance of dozing
3 = high chance of dozing

It’s important that you answer each question as best you can.

Situation Chance of dozing
(0 = low, 3 = high)
Sitting and reading
Watching TV
Sitting still in a public place (e.g. a theatre, a cinema or a meeting)
As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break
Lying down to rest in the afternoon when the circumstances allow
Sitting and talking to someone
Sitting quietly after lunch without having drunk alcohol
In a car or bus while stopped for a few minutes in traffic
TOTAL