Do you remember that as a teenager it was pretty much impossible to drag yourself out of bed before 10 o’clock in the morning?

That’s not because teenagers are lazy, it’s just that their minds and bodies need time to grow and develop so more sleep is required.

Latest government figures suggest that we need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, but how many of us older folk get that, I wonder?!

Personally, no matter how tired I am when I go to bed, I’m always awake at 5.30 am. It’s a lifetime habit I’ve been unable to break.

Our sleep patterns change dramatically as we age, so it’s not unusual to have trouble getting to sleep or even sleeping through the night. I, for one, can often be found with a cup of tea and a few digestives at 3 o’clock in the morning!

But lack of sleep can often leave us feeling tired, irritable and grumpy the following day.

The majority of us have trouble sleeping from time to time no matter what age we are, but if the problem persists, a visit to the doctor may be in order as you may have insomnia.


Insomnia, also known as sleeplessness, is a sleep disorder where people have trouble sleeping. They may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep as long as desired. Insomnia is typically followed by daytime sleepiness, low energy, irritability and a depressed mood. It may result in an increased risk of motor vehicle collisions, as well as problems focusing and learning. Insomnia can be short term, lasting for days or weeks, or long term, lasting more than a month.*

Insomnia is more common in women than men and tends to increase with age.

It should not be ignored if it persists as it may be caused by stress, a deep-rooted anxiety, health issues or excessive drinking.


If lack of sleep persists, it can have an enormous impact on your daily life, especially if you still work. Your performance may well drop dramatically as concentration becomes more difficult. You may even find yourself falling asleep at your desk!

It can affect your appetite, making you crave junk food or sweets to try to give yourself that extra boost, and leading to weight gain and a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety.


  • Try to get to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • If you wake up tired, try to avoid lying in. You need to develop a regular sleep pattern.
  • Avoid the TV for at least a few hours before bedtime. Try having a soothing bath or reading a book instead.
  • Avoid coffee, alcohol and a heavy meal late at night.
  • Do not do heavy exercise in the evening.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool. 18 degrees centigrade is an ideal temperature, though some may like it cooler.
  • Avoid napping during the day, but if you feel you need a regular nap, try and schedule it in at roughly the same time every day.

If insomnia is proving to be a significant problem, your doctor may prescribe some tablets in the short term to help you. He may also refer you to a psychological practitioner for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which may help you to break the thought patterns and behaviour that could be contributing to your insomnia.


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