How to Sleep Well


Steps to a good sleep

Many people who experience anxiety and depression often also report a lack of sleep or insomnia.

Sleep is controlled by two body rhythms. The sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological


When we have been awake for a long period of time the sleep/wake homeostasis tells us it is time

to sleep. This is about creating a balance of sleep and wakefulness in every 24 hour period. The

circadian body clock dips and rises at various times of day. For adults the strongest sleep drive

generally occurs between 2.00a.m. and 4.00 a.m. and between 1.00 pm and 3.00 pm. The

sleepiness we experience at these times will depend on whether or not we have had sufficient


Teenagers need at least 8 hours but ideally a little more sleep than that yet the shift in their

circadian clock can make it hard for them to fall asleep before 11.00 p.m.. If teenagers are

consistently not getting enough sleep they will tend to extend their getting up time later and later

into the morning.

Apart from the peaks and troughs in wakefulness we also have a 90 minute circadian rhythm of

alertness. Going to bed at the right time is about catching the right place in this cycle. It can be

helpful to go to work back in units of 90 minutes from when you need to get up.

Sleep requirements vary but generally on average

3 years 12 hours

5-9 years 10.5 hours

10-13 years 10 hours

14 - 18 years 8.5 hours

19 - 45 years 7 hours approx.

45+ 5-7hours

We have different amounts and depths of REM and non REM sleep throughout the night. This too

depends on needs.

Sleep Hygiene

Bedrooms should be quiet dark and boring

Comfortable bed

Thick curtains or blinds

Not too hot or cold

No computers, phones, tv etc.

Other behaviours to support good quality sleep

Being physically and mentally active in the daytime

Be outside in the daylight as exposure to bright natural light can increase melatonin production

(melatonin is a hormone produced in the body which helps to regulate sleep)

Build a good routine of regular bed time and wake time (taking account of the 90 minute cycle)

Restrict fluids in the evenings

No big meals or strenuous exercise too close to bed time

Become a non smoker

Use the eye relaxation process to take your attention away from the busy head

If all the methods above fail to work you can use:-

Sleep restriction therapy

This method is used widely in sleep clinics

Firstly strict sleep therapists will say bedrooms are for sleep and nothing else.

If you can not get to sleep within 15 -20 minutes - get up and do something boring till you start to

yawn then go back to bed for 15- 20 minutes if you are still not asleep repeat the process until

eventually you sleep. No matter how tire d you are the next day satay awake till your normal

bedtime and you will normally sleep.

Do not expect to sleep 8 hours a night and nap in the day. If napping in the day works for you

deduct the nap time from the amount of night time sleep you would expect to get.

Another thing to do is to try to stay awake