Good bedtime habits, not sleeping pills, is the long-term solution to insomnia, a new study in Germany has confirmed.
Many people sleep better during holidays and long to sleep well all the time. But good habits, besides being free of worries help in sound sleep, according to the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care.
The institute suggested what bedtime habits could help, how well relaxation techniques work, how sleep changes throughout life and that adults need less sleep.
"Prescription sleeping pills can be important in certain situations, but they can cause a lot of adverse effects. For older people, sleep medication can increase the risk of falling, as well as interfering with other medicines," warned the institute director Peter Sawicki.
"Sleeping pills are (also) not the best way to solve underlying problems like depression or painful conditions that are interfering with a good night's sleep," he said.
Reading and watching TV in bed could actually make it harder to sleep. If people cannot sleep, it is better for them to get out of bed and do something else rather than focusing on trying to sleep.
Getting up at the same time every morning can help too. Napping during the day might make it harder for you to sleep at night if you are struggling with chronic insomnia.
It is also important to avoid drinking caffeinated drinks and alcohol in the evening. "Most people know that coffee, cola or black tea can interfere with their sleep," said Sawicki.
"But many do not realise that alcohol is one of the major causes of a bad night's sleep. About 20 percent of adults in industrial countries have problems sleeping at one time or another. The institute analysed scientific studies that cover a wide range of research on sleep and insomnia.
"Trials have shown that many people could get to sleep a little sooner if they learned relaxation techniques to help them 'switch off' when it is time to go to sleep."
Studies have shown that as we get older, we actually need less sleep on average. While children and teenagers generally need eight or more hours sleep every night, by the time people are 40, they usually only need seven hours a night.
The Institute's website, www.informedhealthonline.org, provides the public with information about current medical developments and research on important health issues.