It’s very important to try to keep a normal sleeping routine when you're ill, even though your fatigue may make you feel like sleeping all the time. There are many ways to overcome fatigue which your nurse or doctor will be happy to discuss with you. In the meantime, the following might be a useful guide to make the most of your rest periods:
A 10-point plan for better rest
Sleep quality is very important and may help to fight fatigue as well as reduce your need to sleep during the day. The following pointers should help ensure better night-time rest.
1. Sleep just long enough
Sleep for as long as you need to feel refreshed during the following day, but not more than necessary. Limiting time in bed seems to produce better-quality sleep. Too much time in bed can lead to disturbed and shallow sleep.
2. Wake up at the same time every day
A regular wake-up time in the morning seems to strengthen most people’s sleep routine and eventually leads to regular times of going to sleep.
3. Exercise regularly if you can
A regular daily amount of exercise may help to deepen sleep over the long term.
4. Reduce noise
Occasional loud noises (such as aircraft flying overhead) disturb sleep, even if you don’t remember the disturbance in the morning. If your bedroom is noisy, you could mask some of the noise using a small electric fan, or you could use ear-plugs.
5. Keep a steady temperature in your bedroom
If your room is either very warm or very cold, your sleep may be affected. Room temperature should be comfortably warm.
6. Have a bedtime snack
Hunger may disturb sleep. A light bedtime snack, warm milk, or a hot drink seems to help some people to sleep better.
7. Avoid stimulants
Many people who have problems sleeping are very sensitive to stimulants. It is best to avoid drinks that contain caffeine and chocolate for a few hours before bedtime.
8. Know how naps affect you
Some people find that daytime naps help them sleep better at night, while others sleep less well after them. Find out what suits you best.
9. Limit your intake of alcohol
Alcohol can help tense people to fall asleep more quickly, but the sleep tends to be broken. It is advisable, therefore, to avoid large amounts of alcohol near bedtime.
10. Know when to say 'enough'
Rather than lying in bed tossing and turning, you could get up and watch television or read a book. Wait until you feel tired again and then go back to bed. Audiotapes with stories may help you to sleep, and are stocked in most bookshops and libraries.
Mental exercises can also help you to sleep. These usually take about 10 minutes and include:
- trying to remember the lines of a song or poem
- making alphabetical lists of girls’ or boys’ names, countries, trees or flowers
- reliving a favourite experience in every detail
- writing a letter in your head
- relaxation exercises
Your body will still get some benefit from lying quietly in bed resting, even if you are not actually asleep. Although you may feel as if you have been awake all night, you may well have managed to have several hours of good quality sleep.