Many people have difficulties sleeping after being unwell. This can have a significant impact on recovery and daily living. Common difficulties include: 

  • frequent waking throughout the night
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • difficulty staying asleep
  • waking up earlier than usual
  • sleeping later than usual
  • sleeping more than usual
  • finding it difficult to wake

Sleep difficulties can be due to a number of reasons. It may be because you have been unwell and your body needs more rest, your normal daily routine has changed, your daily activities have changed, you may be experiencing more pain, and you may be feeling more stressed or anxious than usual. 

Experiencing sleep difficulties can make symptoms worse. You may feel more fatigued, less able to cope with your pain, less able to cope with anxiety and stress and struggle to concentrate on things. 

Most adults need between 6-9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is very individual and how much sleep you need is individual for each person. Because sleep is very individual to each person, it might make time to find what works for you. This is likely to be a process of trial and error.

  • Physical Health problems (e.g. pain)
  • Mental Health issues (e.g. depression, anxiety)
  • Diet
  • Substance misuse
  • Too much caffeine
  • Over-stimulation (e.g. being on your phone/watching TV late at night)
  • Stress/ Anxiety
  • Temperature
  • Noise 

Having a good night’s sleep is important for both physical and mental health. Having a good night’s sleep can increase resilience and enable us to be better able to cope with stress and anxiety, improving overall quality of life. Sleep enables the brain to: 

  • Repair and restore itself
  • Store energy
  • Clean out waste 
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood 
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Reduced Motivation


  • Setting a routine can help establish a sense of normality in difficult times. It can help to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. Practising a bed time routine can be helpful to help you unwind from the day and can make it easier to fall asleep (i.e. warm bath, hot drink). Doing an activity such as reading or doing a puzzle before bed can help you relax your body and mind ready for sleep.
  • Avoid substances before bed. It is best to avoid caffeine and nicotine 3-6 hours before bed. It can help to switch to de-caffeinated drinks. It is best to avoid alcohol and substances 4-6 hours before bed, these reduce the quality of your sleep.
  • Regular exercise can help, but try not to do strenuous activity in the 4 hours before bed.
  • Ensure you eat a balanced diet. Some people find going to bed on an empty stomach distracting, it may be helpful to have a light snack before. Heavy meals before bed can impact on quality of sleep.
  • A comfortable sleep environment can make it easier to fall asleep and remain asleep. It can help to block out natural light (i.e. you may like to use a sleep mask) and ensure the room is a comfortable temperature.
  • Try to empty your head of thoughts that may be impacting on your sleep. It can help to have a notepad to right down any thoughts that may be getting in the way. Relaxation and mindful activities may also be useful. Try to go to bed when you feel sleepy.

If you are struggling to sleep it can be helpful to get up after about 20 minutes. Try and do something relaxing such as listen to calming music or read a book. Avoid bright lights, electronics and activities that are stimulating.

Many smart phones have apps that can be helpful when trying to manage sleep difficulties such as:

  • Headspace
  • Mindmeister
  • Calm
  • Breathe2Relax
  • Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
Keeping a sleep diary over the course of a week may help you notice things that may be disrupting your sleep. An example of a Sleep Diary (PDF)
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