Sleep is vital to health – top sleep tips for World Sleep Day

Posted on: 17 March 2016

Devon public health bosses are helping to raise awareness of some simple ways to tackle sleep problems, to mark international World Sleep Day  (Friday March 18).

According to sleep specialist Stephanie Romiszewski, based at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, a third of the population suffer from insomnia-type sleep problems. About 10% of those will seek treatment.

Stephanie Romiszewstephanie 2ski said:

“Sleep is the third pillar of health and it’s just as cheap, easy and influential as diet and exercise.

“Our aim is to reduce GP consultations and prescriptions, and the burden it currently has on our health services, by empowering people to take control of their own health.

“Sleep makes a more global difference to how we feel, our relationships and even on the economy than most other things.  It is not a luxury, and it’s within everyone’s power to effect the quality of sleep they have.

“We know that sleeping pills are not suitable for long term use.  We tend to fear a lack of sleep so we try and avoid sleep debt and encourage sleep to come whenever we can – going to bed early, relaxing, lying in and resting.

“Sleep is actually a drive state like hunger or thirst – you need to build up sleepiness in order to sleep. That means you can actually use a bad night’s sleep and the small amount of sleep deprivation it incurs, to your advantage. The first step to getting sleep back on track is to build up this sleep drive.

“Sleeping pills are regularly prescribed, but rarely treat the problem long term. There is an evidence-based long term treatment for insomnia – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia or CBTI – and according to NICE guidelines should be used in the first instance for long term insomnia.

“Sometimes ‘sleep hygiene’ advice is given, but there is no evidence that these techniques, such as avoiding caffeine, can treat insomnia. Rather, they help a good sleeper get better quality out of their sleep.”

A new campaign launched by Public Health England to tackle ill health in older age, includes information and advice on sleep.

The One You campaign focuses on good-quality sleep as being more important than the amount of sleep that you get, to keep you feeling healthy.

Devon’s Director of Public Health, Dr Virginia Pearson, said:  “Increasingly we are aware of the impact sleep has on our health, and we are keen to work with local partners and with the national PHE campaign to raise awareness of the importance of good quality sleep.

“We will be working with local NHS colleagues to look at ways to promote some simple steps to sleep, to support people who may be experiencing sleep problems.

“Advice is also available on the PHE One You website, where people can take a simple quiz to find out about their general health and find ways to make some easy improvements.”

Stephanie’s Stop Start Steps to easy sleep:

  • Stop dictating your sleep time – don’t go to bed unless you’re really sleepy, even if it means a few late nights to start with. Remember that short, unbroken sleep is more beneficial than more time in bed not sleeping.
  • Start dictating your wake time – Wake up at the same time every day even when you have had a poor night’s sleep (and this applies to weekends too).
  • Stop stealing your sleep fuel – Do not nap during the day- it will steal your sleep drive away from you and your body will have to build it up all over again before you can sleep.
  • Start relaxing – Once you feel sufficiently sleepy, start using some relaxation exercises before bed.

Dr David Jenner, a GP from Devon and clinical board member of the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“A good night’s sleep, whether you are a lark or an owl, is vital to your health and wellbeing.”

For further information see: CCG leaflet entitled Good Sleep Guide or PHE One You campaign.

Posted in: Health and Wellbeing