World Sleep Day 18th March 2016

It’s World Sleep Day on 18th March 2016: intended to be a celebration of sleep, and this year the slogan is “Good sleep is a reachable dream”! About 25% of us struggle with our sleep, and this can negatively affect our health and wellbeing in many ways. We should be aiming for about 7 or 8 hours per night, but it’s well known that many students are missing out on a good night’s sleep-probably the most powerful performance enhancer in the world. It’s not unusual for students to work longer than they sleep, especially in the run up to exams.

So how can you stop your sleep suffering at times of stress? There are some basic dos and don’ts. First alcohol, which is both sedating and stimulating, so although we can use it to fall asleep, drinking close to bedtime makes us more likely to wake up in the early hours. Second caffeine and stimulant drugs: it’s best to avoid these within 6 hours of bedtime and some of us find cutting caffeine out completely during the day can help. Third, LCD phone and tablet screens last thing at night: they emit “blue light” similar to sunlight, confusing our body clocks. Fourth, we should avoid taking a nap during the day however tired we are, as this disturbs our body rhythm. Fifth, regular daytime exercise (but not too near to bedtime) can help us feel more tired and relaxed at the end of the day. All of these general tips for sleeping better are often called “sleep hygiene” and more detail about them can be found at
Whatever the initial cause of our poor sleep, worrying about it, about feeling tired the next day and about how this might impact on our life can often make the problem a lot worse. Once this situation arises, the trick can actually be to accept our anxieties. Dr Guy Meadows has written “The Sleep Book“, an excellent self-help manual with clever exercises to prevent intrusive anxious thoughts from disturbing sleep, such as giving our worries nicknames and learning to merely observe them. The Student Counselling Service runs mindfulness groups, which can also help students break their bad sleep patterns. If you feel that your sleep problems are significantly impacting on your physical and mental wellbeing and self-help and counselling don’t feel like enough, the GPs at Students’ Health Service can advise you further. It’s important to prioritise sleep, because without it University life can definitely be more stressful and less productive.

Camping; a cure for insomnia?

I was fascinated to read a new bit of research published in August, when so many of our students were off camping. Sadly I don’t think festival camping will count, but if you were in the outback, somewhere with minimal night lights and sitting by the camp fire, then well done!


It seems that living by the maxim “up when it’s light and asleep when it’s dark” is based in science… it’s one of the pieces of advice we give our students who suffer from insomnia, along with;


  • Avoid napping in the day
  • Avoid alcohol/ caffeine 4-6 hours before bed time
  • Exercise regularly, but not just before bed
  • Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time, every day
  • Block out light/ noise as much as possible
  • Don’t use the bedroom as an office or place of work
  • If you cannot sleep having woken in the middle of the night, then after 20mins get up and do a quiet activity, have a bath etc before going back to bed and trying again.


If your insomnia persists then please come and talk to a doctor.

What I like about the camping research is that it is so simple and pares back all the stuff we do to ourselves that stops us sleeping, so that within just a few days of a simple routine being followed sleep returns.


Good sleep habits are vital for our wellbeing, health and mood. If you are suffering, then please come and see us.