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I was listening a couple of weeks ago to an early morning news presenter interview a neuroscientist from Oxford University about the importance of sleep and how it impacts on our mental and physical mental health . There were a couple of interesting statistics quoted, firstly that sleep constitutes 36% of our biological lives, and that the average adult spends one and a half hours less in bed than compared to adults in the 1950s.
Assessing the problem
It got me thinking about the importance of good sleep patterns for the people we work with. You’ll find some useful material in QCS policies and procedures contained in admission packs for assessment and care planning that allow you to record service user sleep patterns. We can get that information from asking the service user, their family or from staff observations of sleep patterns.
Why is it important? Firstly there’s lots of evidence linking poor sleep with physical and mental health problems. Think about some of the consequences of not getting a proper night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation at its most extreme level can result in hallucinations. Other symptoms of a poor night’s sleep might be poor concentration and irritability the next day.
It’s not just mental health that can be affected. Poor sleep can be associated with poor physical health because proper sleep helps regulate our body systems.
Getting a good night’s sleep
There may well be mental health causes of not being able to get a proper night’s sleep. If you went to the doctor to say you had difficulty sleeping, he or she may well be looking for psychological explanations as to why you couldn’t sleep. Being anxious about something can cause you to lose sleep. There’s also a link between some other forms of mental disorder and early wakening such as depression and schizophrenia. Some of this research is contained in a useful report by the Mental Health Foundation which is available as a free download at: http://www.howdidyousleep.org/media/downloads/MHF_Sleep_Matters_Report.pdf
The report also looks at some of the things you can actively do to improve sleeping. For example:
- Avoid caffeine near bedtime
- Reduce light sources at bedtime, such as watching the TV
- Keeping regular times to go to bed and get up
- Doing something relaxing before bedtime such as having a bath, or reading a few pages of a book.
- Keeping a sleep diary will help properly assess the extent of any sleep problems. The Mental Health Foundation report contains a format for doing this.
*All information is correct at the time of publishing