Mental Health Helpline For Wales

Community Advice & Listening Line

Offering a confidential listening and support service


0800 132 737

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About Sleep


  1. A good night's sleep?
  2. How much is enough?
  3. Sleep problems
  4. What is insomnia?
  5. Page 2: Sleep Self Help

A good night's sleep?

How you feel during the day can depend on how well you sleep at night. After a sleepless night you might wake up feeling like a couple of the Seven Dwarves: Grumpy and Sleepy - read our tips to help you sleep better.

How much is enough?

There are no hard and fast rules, though most adults seem to need from seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Some people can function with as little as six, and there are those who don't feel OK until they've had ten hours sleep. What works for one person might not work for another, the key is to find the right amount of sleep for you.

On average:

  • New-born babies sleep up to 18 - 21 hours per day
  • 3 - 5 year olds sleep 11 - 13 hours per day
  • Pre-teens need about 11 hours
  • Teenagers need 9 -11 hours

Sleep problems

If you don't get enough sleep, you may start to feel:

  • Tired all the time
  • Sleepy during the day
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Indecisive
  • Low in mood

Disruption of your body clock or 'circadian rhythm' due to shift work or frequent travel across time zones has been linked to obesity, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and cancer.

The Harvard Study found that nurses who worked both day and night-shifts had a more than 10% increased risk of death.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia simply means being awake when you want to be asleep. You might have insomnia if, on a regular basis:

  • You take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, even when you're tired (initial insomnia)
  • You wake up during the night and can't easily get back to sleep again (middle insomnia)
  • You wake up too early and find it very hard to get back to sleep again (late insomnia)

Insomnia isn't simply a matter of how many hours of sleep you get, or of how long it takes to fall asleep. People vary in their satisfaction with sleep.

Insomnia may be 'transient', 'intermittent' or 'chronic'. Insomnia lasting from one night to a few weeks is called 'transient'.

If transient insomnia occurs from time to time, the insomnia is said to be 'intermittent'. Insomnia is considered to be 'chronic' if it occurs on most nights and lasts for a month or more.

'Secondary insomnia' is sleeplessness as a result of another problem - for example asthma, anxiety or depression. Many people find they sleep poorly when stressed. It's common to find that stress, anxiety and worry are associated with initial insomnia, while anger and depression are more associated with middle or late insomnia, though there are no hard and fast rules.

If you're not sleeping well, ask yourself about your emotions, whether you may be feeling especially low, anxious or stressed?