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Information and advice for young people in Suffolk

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Trouble Sleeping

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How much sleep do young people need?

Children and teenagers require more sleep than adults - usually about 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

How do I know if I am getting enough sleep?

If you wake up feeling refreshed you are probably getting enough sleep. If you wake up feeling exhausted you are not getting enough sleep. If you usually wake up feeling groggy you may be getting too much sleep.

What are common sleep problems?

Common sleep problems:

  • I can’t go to sleep
  • I can’t stay asleep
  • I can’t sleep without someone with me/the light on
  • I wake up too early
  • I always worry at bedtime
  • I have night terrors
  • I sleep too much 

Reasons why you may be finding it hard to get to sleep?

Body Clock - Young people aged 0-25 often find it difficult to sleep because their body clock is set for them to sleep longer.
The release of melatonin (a hormone which helps us go to sleep) is released later in the day, and stays in the system longer. This makes it harder to fall asleep and get up early.

Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant and will keep you awake. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, coka-cola and soft drinks, and even some medicines. Caffeine's effects can last for many hours and so it is a good idea not to have any caffeine for 4-6 hours before bed.

Nicotine – Nicotine is a stimulant, and has a similar effect on sleep to caffeine. Nicotine makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.  

Alcohol – Alcohol disrupts the sleep cycle process which can lead to poor quality sleep.

Diet - Being hungry can wake you up, this is why a light snack a little while before bedtime can help you sleep. On the other hand, going to bed too full can also wake you up as your body will be too busy digesting the food, and this interferes with your sleep.

Worries - If you are feeling stressed or worried when you are in bed you will often find it more difficult to get to sleep. Emotional wellbeing problems like anxiety and depression can often cause sleep problems. Write down your worries before bed with some solutions or talking to someone about what’s on your mind, can help you feel more at ease so you’re not thinking about it the whole night.

Light – Sleepiness is triggered by a light sensitive hormone called melatonin. Bright lights in your room or from your TV and phone screens can delay the release of melatonin which sends us to sleep which is why it is recommended not to use, laptops, tablets and phones just before bedtime.

Environment – Uncomfortable beds, cold or hot rooms, and noisy neighbours are just some of the distractions that might make it difficult for us to get to sleep.

Naps – Naps during the day can disrupt your sleep routine and stop you being able to sleep at night.

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep improves your social, emotional, and behavioural development. Lack of sleep can lead to:

  • Poor concentration,
  • irritability,
  • Poor memory and tiredness.
  • Bad mood and thinking patterns.
  • Poor judgement

What happens while we sleep?

During sleep our brains are processing information and consolidating memories. Research has shown a lack of sleep can lead to: more negative than positive memories, and negative thinking.

The National Sleep Foundation found that teens that sleep less than 8 hours per night are involved in more accidents - the leading cause of death for teens is car accidents!  

How can I improve the quality of my sleep?

  1. Keep a sleep diary (on how many hours of sleep you get each night). Do this for a week or two. Use your sleep diary to add up the total hours you spent asleep across the week and divide this by the number of nights to get your average amount of sleep time.

  2. Use the health app on your phone to create a weekly sleep schedule that will alert you when it's time to go to bed and wake up. It is important the schedule is kept to. To ease into your new sleep schedule you could begin to go to bed 5-10 minutes earlier each week until your desired bedtime schedule is reached. 

  3. Create a wind down sleep routine an hour before bed by doing something relaxing that does not involve staring at electronic devices and screens, like reading, taking a warm bath or listening to music - try creating your own a bedtime music playlist of songs that help you relax. 

  4. Do regular exercise. A lack of daytime activities reduces the sleep drive at night-time.

  5. Eat healthier. Snacks rich in nutrients like: bananas, eggs and toast, fresh veggies, dried fruits, seeds and nuts, low-sugar yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese, a glass of milk, are all good foods that can help you sleep. Avoid lots of sugar, spicy or heavy food high in fat before bed.

  6. Stay hydrated with plenty of water during the day, but not too much before bed so you don't wake up in the middle of the night.

  7. Practice relaxation strategies before bed (e.g. breathing exercises and muscle relaxation exercises like yoga).

  8. Don’t force yourself to sleep. Get up and do something relaxing and then try going back to bed. 

I keep having nightmares

Avoid scary movies, TV shows, and stories before bed — especially if they've triggered nightmares before.   

Further sleep advice resources

Sleep resources for teens

Sleep Better, Be Better

Young Minds - What to do if you're struggling to sleep?

The Mix - How can I sleep better at night?

On My Mind - Sleep

Every Mind Matters Website 

What if I need more support?

Get support from the Suffolk Wellbeing Service - You can book on to their ‘Improving your Sleep’ webinar.

If you require further support you could make a referral to Wellbeing Suffolk for one to one support. Wellbeing Suffolk provides Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to help with insomnia. Fill in their referral form 

Ask your GP about sleep advice - If you have:

  • Excessive snoring
  • School or behavioural problems are preventing you from sleeping
  • Bedwetting
  • Severe nightmares or night terrors that interfere with daytime
  • Sleep issues that persist more than 2 weeks  

 Call the National Sleep Helpline on: 03303 530 541

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