Our NHS Go app is packed full of advice and information for young Londoners struggling with sleep problems. University graduate, Hannah Skilton, talks about her sleep patterns and how the app helped her
As a full-time undergraduate student in my final year, taking an extra unit, participating in many extracurricular activities, and having a part-time job, I found that everything else took priority over sleeping. I would often find myself staying up very late (early hours of the morning) or doing all-nighters in order to finish a piece of work. I find it very easy to stay awake late, and in fact have always had difficulty going to sleep early.
Even when I was a child and would go to bed at bedtime, I’d find that I’d stay awake for hours before being able to switch off, relax, and sleep. I work in a restaurant with flexible shifts, so some days I start at 10am, and others I finish at 1am – and I can work anytime in between too. After work, it takes me at least two hours, from when I get home, to start to settle down and even consider sleep. Therefore even though I don’t need to stay up late to finish university work anymore, it can still be hard to get into a sleep routine because my shifts at work vary so much.
As I am in a student house with factors that I cannot control, there can be a lot of things stopping me from getting to sleep, such as my loud housemates, my bed that breaks every time I move in bed, the coldness of the room, and not owning a lamp. Only from reflecting on my usual sleeping patterns at home, where I tend to have better sleep, have I realised that at my parent’s home I normally turn off the big light, relax with a lamp on, and then switch it off when I’m ready to sleep. Therefore, I reckon that having to choose between a bright light and no light was a factor in why I couldn’t get to sleep quickly.
On the NHS Go app, it suggests using your room only as a place to sleep and for sexual activity. However during exam season there wasn’t a quieter place to study in my university house. In order to get better sleep, I started going to the library to study, and then back home to relax. I also tried to not eat in my bedroom. As I have been so busy with university work and other commitments, I haven’t watched anything on my laptop in my bedroom in months, and I hardly use my television (which is pushed to the side of my room, so I can’t even see it in bed), and I have found that this has helped my brain to settle down quicker at nighttime.
A reason for lack of sleep that is very specific to me, is that I have a boyfriend who lives in America and with the five hour time difference, it is easy for the evening conversations to creep on until midnight… for him… which is my 5am! This used to be a problem a few months ago, but we sorted this out after I felt really tired all the time, and now 2am my time is the shut off point.
I’m actually really good at handling little sleep – I think I have had many years to practise this. Sometimes I find that I work really well with five hours sleep, but I have recently discovered that if I let myself sleep, my optimum amount of sleep is 9 hours – which is a lot more than what I thought I’d need! With nine hours sleep, I feel my most refreshed, alert, my skin feels more hydrated, and I feel generally better to take on the day.