Q: Is it true that as we age, we don’t need that much sleep?
Q: I may have a sleep disorder. What can I do to improve my situation?
If you think you have a sleep disorder, there are a few self-help measures that will help improve your situation. These include keeping a sleep diary and improving your “sleep hygiene” and daytime habits.
A sleep diary can help you keep track of your sleep pattern and identify factors that may be contributing to your sleep problems. Your sleep diary should include the time you went to bed and woke up, total sleep hours and perceived quality of sleep, a record of the time you spent awake and what you did (e.g. “got up, had a glass of milk”, “stayed in bed with eyes closed”), types and amount of food, liquids and caffeine, or alcohol you consumed before bedtime, times of consumption, your feelings and mood before bedtime (e.g. stress, anxiety, low mood) and medications or drugs taken including time of consumption and dose. After a week or two, the diary can reveal how certain behaviours may have affected your chance of having a good night’s sleep.
In terms of improving your daytime habits that can affect your sleep, here are some tips:
• Have a routine bedtime and wake-up time everyday.
• Keep your bed and bedroom comfortable. The room should not be too cold or hot, or too bright.
• Get some exercise preferably in late afternoon or early evening. Avoid doing heavy exercise before going to bed.
• Avoid consuming coffee, tea, nicotine or alcohol in the few hours before your bedtime as it will disrupt your sleep.
• Avoid a large meal before bedtime.
• Avoid watching TV, listening to radio or reading in bed as this may interfere with your sleep.
• Spend some time relaxing and try muscle relaxation, a warm bath or a milky drink to help you unwind before bedtime. – Dr Natarajan Kathirvel, Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of General Psychiatry, Institute of Mental Health