How much sleep do we need?

 Many people are not aware that the amount of sleep we need for normal health varies with our age. Also, adults differ in the amount of sleep they need; for some, 4 hours a night is ample; for others, 10 hours is not enough. The average sleep for a 50-year-old is 7 hours a day. 

What is a sleep problem?

 There is a problem when lack of sleep or too much sleep interferes with your activities during the day. The most common cause is insomnia, which may be caused by anxiety or depression. These problems include restless legs, sleep apnoea (brief periods of not breathing), and snoring.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia, which means ‘poor sleep’, is a lack of adequate sleep, which may be difficulty getting off to sleep, difficulty staying asleep, or waking early. It is a temporary problem in most instances and is usually due to a passing personal problem; however, sometimes it just happens for no reason.

What are the causes of Insomnia?

  • Stress : About work, school, health, finances or family, stressful life events.
  • Travel or work schedule: Changes in sleep wake cycle, metabolism and body temperature jet lag from traveling across multiple time zones, working a late or early shift, or frequently changing shifts.
  • Poor sleep habits: Poor sleep habits include an irregular bedtime schedule, naps, stimulating activities before bed, an uncomfortable sleep environment, and using your bed for work, eating or watching TV. Computers, TVs, video games, smartphones or other screens just before bed can interfere with your sleep cycle.
  • Heavy eating before Bedtime: Eating too much may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable while lying down. Many people also experience heartburn, a backflow of acid and food from the stomach into the esophagus after eating, which may keep you awake.

What can I do to settle before sleep?

  • Establish a routine to follow before going to bed.
  • Only lie down to go to sleep when you feel sleepy. 
  • Do not try to sleep immediately after a heavy meal, after difficult work that required a lot of concentration, after strenuous exercise or after an emotional upset or argument. 
  • Glancing through a magazine, listening to the radio, having a warm (not too hot) bath or shower, or some other relaxation technique. You might find something else that works better for you.
  • Often, having a warm milk drink as you retire to bed will help. 
  • Avoid drinks containing caffeine such as tea, coffee and cocoa prior to bedtime.
  • Alcohol can stop many people from settling to sleep and can cause others to have disturbed sleep. 
  • Repeated ‘naps’ during the day will make sleep at night difficult. 
  • In general, you will come to no harm if you do not sleep at all for 1 or 2 nights; you will catch up later. 
  • Undertake a relaxation program such as meditation. Don’t take your worries to bed.
  • Don’t keep yourself awake by worrying about going to sleep. 
  • Make your bedroom environment a good place to be attractive, quiet, dark, and relaxing.

What about the treatment of Insomnia?

Doctors prefer you to work at getting a natural sleep by various relaxation techniques and not to take sedative drugs. However, sometimes drugs can help you over a difficult period and may help you get into a pattern only after consultation with the clinician. Some sedative drugs are suitable, but should be taken for a short time (say 2 to 3 nights) and taken in the lowest effective dose. 


  • Thompson, J. K. (Ed.). (2004). Handbook of eating disorders and obesity. John Wiley & Sons, Inc..
  • Striegel-Moore, R. H., & Smolak, L. (Eds.). (2001). Eating disorders: Innovative directions in research and practice. American Psychological Association.
  • Murtagh’s patient education, sixth edition © mcgraw-hill

Disclaimer: All contents on this site are for general information and in no circumstances, information be substituted for professional advice from the relevant healthcare professional, Writer does not take responsibility for any damage done by the misuse or use of the information.