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“I need some sleeping tablets”

“I’m just here to get a script for my sleeping tablets,” he said as he sat down.

This wouldn’t be the quick 5 minute consult that he expected.

“How’s your sleep hygiene?”

“What’s that? I have a shower before bed. Is that what you mean?”

“Sleep hygiene is the process you take to get your body ready for a good night’s sleep.”

“I don’t have a process. I just go to bed and hope for the best. When everything is done, I go to bed. I often can’t get to sleep. When I do get to sleep, I wake up multiples times. The sleeping tablets help but I have noticed that they are helping less.”

“Good sleep starts in the morning. What do you in the first 60 minutes after you wake up?

“I check my phone. Social media, email…the usual stuff. I have some breakfast, get the kids ready for school and then I go to work.”

“Do you get any direct sunlight onto your skin? Particularly morning sunlight?”

“Nah not really. I spend most of my day in the house, in the car or in the office at work.”

“Do you have caffeine?”

“Who doesn’t? I’m not fun to be around without coffee. I crash during the day so I have a few top ups.”

“What do you do in the 90 minutes leading up to sleep?”

“I’m usually on my phone or I watch some Netflix. I have a TV in my room so sometimes I fall asleep whilst it’s on.”

“Do you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day? Weekdays and weekends?”

“Nah it’s all over the place. I generally try to catch up on sleep during the weekend by sleeping in. I still feel tired though.”

“What and when do you eat?”

“Err, Dr G you probably have a bunch of patients waiting. If I just get my sleeping tablets I can be out of your hair”

“Do you exercise? If so, when and where?”

“I go to the gym but I haven’t been for a while. Too busy”

“What is the temperature of your room at night?”

“Seriously Dr G, sleeping tablets and I am out of your hair.”

“What do you use your bed for?”

“…Dr G?” he asked with a cheeky smile on his face.

“I’ve got some great news. Your sleep hygiene is sh**”

“How is that good news?”

“If you make it less sh**, I am confident your sleep will improve and you won’t need the sleeping tablets.”

“Really? To be honest, I don’t actually like taking the sleeping tablets.”

“Excellent. Let’s get to work”

After spending 60 minutes exploring the ins and out of his sleep, we ended up with the following “prescription”.

  1. Morning sunlight exposure for at least 15 minutes by having breakfast outside.
  2. Exercise outside for at least 10 minutes. Do it daily.
  3. No screen for 90 minutes before bedtime.  Swap the screens for hard copy books.
  4. Go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time every day.

A few months later, I saw him for another reason but he took the opportunity to update me on his sleep.

“My sleep is incredible now. I exercise outside in the morning and I have fallen in love with books again”.

It turns out that he didn’t need those sleeping tablets.

Over the next few weeks, I will cover sleep in detail. If you know someone who will find this useful, please share this newsletter with them. 

Much love to you and of course, to myself.

Dr G

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