DOES the sandman bring you buckets of sweet dreams or are you still tossing and turning when he visits at 3am?

If you struggle to catch your 40 winks, you are not alone. In fact, about five million of us suffer from some kind of insomnia.

There are two main types of insomnia; chronic, which can last for weeks, months or even years, or transient insomnia, which only lasts for a few nights or weeks and is usually connected to a stressful event.

A messy bedroom, too much noise or caffeine could all stop you getting a good night's sleep.

But there could be something deeper behind the problem, such as depression, anxiety, or a change in your life.

David Geddes, medical director at Selby and York Primary Care Trust (PCT), said you should not panic if you cannot manage eight hours a night, as we all needed different amounts of sleep.

He said relaxing before bedtime, taking a look at the environment you sleep in and restricting what you eat and drink before you turn in could all help, but he advised you to consult a GP if you have persistent insomnia.

"Have a bedtime routine and get up if you're worrying or can't sleep after 30 minutes and do something relaxing," he said.

"A good night's sleep will make you more alert physically and more responsive."


Taking longer than 45 minutes to fall asleep

Waking repeatedly during the night

Waking up far too early and being unable to get back to sleep

Tiredness during the day, frequent headaches, irritability or lack of concentration

Sleeping better away from home

Only being able to sleep with the aid of sleeping pills or tranquilisers


Can include

Anxiety, depression, grief or worry

Environment: clutter in your bedroom, noise or temperature

A change, such as moving house or starting university

Pain or medical conditions

A change of time zone

Alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine

Sleeping pills or tranquilisers

Self help:

Replace your bed - you should get a new bed every eight to ten years, by which time they could have deteriorated by 70 per cent and could be riddled with asthma-aggravating dust mites.

If light bothers you, buy thicker curtains or wear a sleeping mask.

If your bedroom is too noisy, buy earplugs or try to relax to train your body to sleep through it.

De-clutter your bedroom.

Change your lifestyle - don't drink caffeine or alcohol before bedtime and cut out junk food.

Exercise regularly.

Stay up until a reasonable bedtime, even if you feel sleepy earlier.

Have a warm relaxing bath.

If you can't sleep, get up, do something relaxing and try again.

Establish a routine, go to bed and get up at the same time each day.

Try a warm milky drink at bedtime or a soothing herbal tea like camomile.

Avoid napping during the day.

Write your worries down rather than take them to bed with you.

Think about something calming to help you sleep.

Updated: 11:21 Friday, March 25, 2005