What’s the most important single thing to make you happy in bed? The answer, despite all you hear and see and read, is not sex, important though that maybe, but sleep.
After all, for most of us, it takes up about a third of our life. That is why doctors are always being asked such things as:
- How much sleep do I need?
- Do I sleep better or worse than other people?
- If I sleep badly, why?
- What about some sleeping pills?
People keep themselves awake worrying over such questions. Yet, as with sex, if only they would stop being anxious and just relax and let things happen, the problem would, in a good number of cases, go away.
So before you persuade yourself that you have a sleep difficulty that needs your doctor’s attention, read this. It may show that you’re normal after all.
Different people need different amounts of sleep. No two people are exactly the same, any more than two faces or fingerprints are exactly the same. So do what seems best for you, not what some well-meaning friend or relative tells you — even the person who shares your bed.
Most adults average a little under eight hours; if you have too little you may be dull, bad-tempered, and slow the next day. Children generally need more; a new-born baby may sleep nearly all the time.
As people get older they need less sleep, and the very old normally tend to take frequent naps during the day. Don’t try to force them into a long night’s sleep instead.
It is natural for older people to have interrupted sleep, and does not mean they need sleeping pills. As long as they’re comfortable and resting, it doesn’t matter if they’re awake.
Sleep comes more easily when you’re relaxed — physically, mentally, emotionally. It is suggested that some thought could be given to the following ideas:
Are you tired enough? You won’t be unless you get some exercise. Try a walk before bedtime if you can. Read till you’re drowsy.
Is your bed comfortable’? You may need a new one. Try more pillows or fewer.
Are you too warm? Is your bedroom stuffy? Fresh air helps. Cigarette smoke can prevent sleep.
Is there too much noise? Earplugs can help a lot. So can double glazing.
Are you hungry? A hollow feeling can keep you awake. Try a hot milk drink or a light snack. But avoid heavy, rich and spicy meals late at night. A nightcap may help some people, but too much alcohol may make you wake up early.
Do you have pain? Aches and pains seem worse at night. Don’t suffer in silence. See your doctor.
What about sex? That can bring good, relaxed sleep afterward. But anxiety over performance is as sleep destroying as anxiety over sleep itself.
Are you worried or depressed? Both states of mind keep many people awake. Worry about work, children, money, the death of a loved one, or a feeling of hopelessness or loneliness may stop you from sleeping properly.
Here your doctor can almost certainly help if you tell him what your trouble is. He may prescribe treatment for your anxiety or depression, and this may or may not include modern sleeping pills to tide you over a bad patch.