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Health and Wellbeing

Signs That You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

24th June, 2024

woman in bed with a pillow over her eyes and holding a pair of glasses

As a practitioner who has been helping people to get restorative sleep for over 25 years, one of the most common concerns I encounter is the worry about not getting enough sleep. In writing this blog I hope that I can not only advise you about how much sleep you should be getting but also alleviate any worries so that you’re not losing sleep over it! (Sorry, excuse the pun).

Sleep Requirements

First, let’s look at how much sleep you should be getting. According to experts from the National Institute of Health, an adult should aim to get between 7 and 9 hours a night. If you sleep less than 7 hours a night you may have more health issues than those who sleep 7 or more hours a night.

However, just sleeping is not enough. We also need to be getting the right amount of light and deep sleep and REM sleep and I have written about in my blog ‘what happens when you sleep’. Most adults need around 1–2 hours of deep sleep per night in a 7–9 hr sleep period and 1.5 to 2 hours per night in a 7-9 hour sleep period.


Not Getting Enough Sleep

While it is uncommon for people to die directly from a lack of sleep, chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to a range of health problems that may become serious. Sleep plays an important role in nearly every system of the body and not getting enough of it increases health risks in all these systems. These include:

·  Mental health disorders

·  Obesity

·  Cardiovascular disease

·  Pain

·  Diabetes

·  Immunological disorders

·  Hormone imbalances

What’s more, not getting enough sleep also increases the risk of serious car crashes, falls, and workplace accidents due to the associated cognitive impairments. Nature has designed us to spend a remarkable one third of our lives sleeping and there’s an intelligence in this design. We need our sleep!

This might sound alarming to you, but the key issue is to become aware of the early signs your body is giving you that you aren’t getting enough restorative sleep before it leads to serious health problems. The following are some signs to look out for:

·  Reduced alertness and slow reaction times

·  Trouble paying attention 

·  Reduced cognitive ability and impaired logical reasoning 

·  Mood changes, including irritability

·  Anxiety 

·  Depression 

·  Reduced sex drive 

·  Poor judgment 

·  Brief daytime sleep periods, called microsleeps and longer naps

If you are working you may also find that you are sleeping longer on your days off or cancelling social plans so that you can sleep. We all need to rest over the weekends and when we’re on holiday, but if you’re finding you need to sleep more than usual during these times, it could be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep and/or your sleep quality is poor. All of this can eventually impact your quality of life and happiness.


Getting Restorative Sleep

If you suspect that you’re not getting enough sleep, thankfully there is a lot that you can do about it. I recommend you take a look at some of my previous blogs on the Oak Tree Mobility website in the Health and Wellbeing section. In particular, I recommend you reading the blog that describes 5 simple but powerful ways of getting restorative sleep.

Here are some other simple and, hopefully, actionable tips:

Create a schedule

Aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Create and follow a calming bedtime routine every night in the hour or two before bed 

Limit screen usage

Stay away from your digital devices before bed and during any nighttime awakenings. Avoid checking the time during the night. This simply wakes you up more and creates more anxiety.

Limit napping

Avoid long daytime naps – keep them less than 30 minutes 

Keep active

Engage in exercise every day for at least 20 minutes. Walking and dancing are great.

Optimise your bedroom

Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet

Avoid stimulants

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine in the evening 

Find the right furniture for youSpeak to one of our advisors and ensure that you’ve chosen the right bed and/or recliner to optimise your sleep and daytime rest

Is it a Sleep Deficit or Something else?

Finally, another common issue I have seen as a sleep expert is when people become overly concerned that they aren’t getting enough sleep when in fact, they are. In other words, their tiredness may not be about their sleep. It is not an exact science, and you might find yourself feeling more tired and thinking you need more sleep when it might be something else that you need – for example, you need a change of routine to give you more mental stimulation. Maybe you need to take up a hobby or socialise more. While getting enough good sleep is absolutely essential for your health and well-being, it isn’t the only important consideration. You also need to think about your nutrition, hydration and physical activity. The key here is, that if you are still tired or experiencing any of the above symptoms despite getting enough sleep, you may need to think more creatively about what else you could be doing to improve your health and wellbeing. If symptoms persist despite making positive changes, it might be worth a trip to your GP to rule out any underlying illness.

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