Sleep advice

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Signs of insomnia / poor sleep

You may have insomnia if you:

  • Find it hard to fall asleep
  • Wake up several times in the night
  • Feel tired when you wake up
  • Wake up early and cannot sleep again
  • Feel tired and irritable
  • Find it difficult to concentrate

We need different amounts of sleep at different ages:

  • Adults: 7 - 9 hours
  • Children: 9 -13 hours
  • Toddlers and babies: 12-17 hours

Sleep difficulties can be caused by:

  • Stress
  • Low mood / anxiety
  • Noise levels
  • Feeling uncomfortable
  • Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine
  • Recreational drugs (e.g. cocaine, ecstasy)
  • Jet lag
  • Shift work
  • Screen time

Sleep Hygiene

  • Often improving sleep behaviour can lead to a great improvement in sleep:
  • Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes
  • Have a regular sleep routine
  • Avoid stimulants close to bedtime
  • Caffeine should be avoided in the afternoon onwards
  • Alcohol can make you sleepy at first but affects the quality of sleep overall
  • Avoid heavy or rich food (including spicy, greasy, carbonated foods and drinks) close to bed time
  • Exercise Increase exposure to natural light
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Make a comfortable sleep environment e.g. temperature, light, noise, comfort of bed


Sleeping pills are addictive and can have serious side effects, hence are rarely prescribed now. If they are prescribed, they are for a short period (a few days) if your symptoms are very severe and other treatments have not worked.

Content reviewed by Jemma Shafier, a Doctor Care Anywhere GP