BY ANDREW MCDONALD
A THIRD of all adults aren’t sleeping. Sleepless nights result in miserable days after. You’re never at your most efficient when you’re fatigued.
Alongside the one in three of us who say we regularly suffer sleepless nights, two-thirds of grown ups struggle with disrupted sleep. Furthermore, a quarter report not being able to sleep for more than five hours. This climbs to half stating they never get enough shut eye. It’s no wonder about 25% claim their biggest health ambition is improving their sleeping patterns.
A healthy tip is to look at your sleep hygiene. Experts recommend that bedrooms should be used solely for sleeping and sex. This helps the brain to associate getting into bed only with those activities. Reducing screentime and caffeine before settling down for the night helps too. Nevertheless, this is still not enough for some people.
Surprisingly, most people struggling with sleep never take action to improve their bedtime habits. Of those who do, approximately 15% take sleeping tablets and the same number use alcohol. There are problems with these methods. Both are habit forming and, once hooked, the consequences can be devastating. Secondly, alcohol may help you get to sleep, but the quality of rest you get is much diminished. Excess drink also results in hangovers and can cause you to wake more regularly.
Doctors are frequently reluctant to prescribe sleeping tablets for the reasons outlined above. In a new development, GPs in England have started to recommend using an app called Sleepio instead of popping pills. It is available on the Apple app store with a sister application, Sleepio Companion, downloadable for Android from Google Play. There is also the alternative Calm, accessible from both online stores.
Both Sleepio and Calm use a CBT-based approach to help you sleep better. Placing the focus on examining thoughts about sleep and bedtime behaviours, they help to get better natural rest. Although neither are entirely free, users benefit from not having to pay expensive prescription fees and, in Ireland, can save money by not having to see their GPs as often.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence UK (NICE), has recommended using Sleepio within the NHS. Research has found that the app is more effective at reducing insomnia than both sleeping tablets and changing bedtime habits.
Not only does NICE believe that Sleepio helps patients save money, it also states it’s cost-effective for the NHS too. There is no reason to think it works any less well in Ireland, potentially bringing benefit to thousands of tired Irish adults, as well as the HSE.
There are, of course, times when tablets are essential. It is always best to consult with your GP before taking any health-related action. However, being your own sleep advocate is a healthy path to increasing your chances of a good night’s rest. After all, who among us isn’t ‘appier’ after a good night’s Sleepio?