What is the right amount of sleep? And how do you know if you aren’t getting enough? For something that we each spend around a third of our lives doing, one in three of us regularly struggle with the symptoms of insomnia. Medical Director of The London Sleep Centre, Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, provides answers to common questions about sleep.

I’m tired in the middle of the day. Is that normal? 

Being tired in the middle of the day is one of the many telltale signs that you’ve been deprived of sleep and are generally suffering from either insufficient sleep (acute or chronic insomnia) or poor quality sleep (due to, for example, sleep apnea). Acute insomnia can be caused by the trials of day-to-day life, such as stress at work or a problem at home that you can’t get off your mind, but this will tend to go away once you’ve resolved the problem. Chronic insomnia lasts for much longer, with month-long spells not uncommon. As well as being tired in the middle of the day, other indicators that you’re suffering from sleep deprivation can range from trouble remembering things or behaving more impulsively, through to always feeling hungry or catching colds more easily.

Are there any other health risks from not getting enough sleep?

There are health risks associated with chronic insomnia including an increased likelihood of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, with studies finding a link between these problems and not getting enough sleep.

If I have any symptoms of poor sleep, should I be worried?

If you have trouble sleeping on the odd occasion then no, don’t worry – it can be caused by a range of things. In fact, worrying about not being able to sleep can actually aggravate the issue, leading to tossing and turning at night. If you have had trouble sleeping for a month or more, you should consult your GP.

Does waking up in the middle of the night mean I haven’t had a good night’s sleep? 

Not necessarily. In fact before the 18th-Century Industrial Revolution, it was considered completely natural to sleep in two cycles – having an hour’s break in between when people used to read or pray. However, waking up is a symptom of inadequate or poor quality sleep.  When you wake up in the morning, you should feel awake and ready for the day ahead.

Do I need eight hours a night?

There is a bit of an obsession with the right amount of sleep. The truth is, you will know if you are getting enough sleep because you won’t have any of the above symptoms. There are suggested levels for children, who need more sleep to help in physical and mental development, but generally, the ‘right’ amount of sleep for an adult could be anything from six to nine hours a night – it’s all to do with the individual.

How can I improve my sleep? 

If you feel like you aren’t getting enough sleep, read Doctor Irshaad Ebrahim tips on improving your sleep.


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