HIV and Sleep
A good night's sleep is essential for your physical and mental health and if you're not getting enough it can make you feel bad. There is no magic number for the amount of sleep we need, but current guide note that most adults sleep for an average of seven to nine hours per night. You should listen to your body to find out how much sleep is good for you.
If you're not getting enough sleep you will feel slow and tired all day, perhaps moody and you won't be able to perform as well at anything that you need to use your brain for. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania believe that we build up a 'sleep debt' when we don't get enough sleep over a period of time and that this can lead to serious problems when carrying out normal day to day tasks.
Insomnia is classified as a difficulty in getting to sleep and/or staying asleep. Alongside fatigue, which you'll feel if you often don't get enough sleep, it is common in HIV positive people throughout the course of the virus. If you have always found it difficult to sleep, HIV could exacerbate the problem - so talk about this with your doctor. Depression and anxiety can also affect your ability to sleep.
Sleeping problems could also be a side effect of your HIV medication, so it is worth talking to your doctor if you believe that this is the case. If poor sleep is bothering you, there are a few simple things that you can do to try to help yourself:
- Is your bed comfortable? Many of us find that it's best if it is not too soft and not too hard
- Is your bedroom the right temperature and not too noisy or light?
- Only go to bed when you're sleepy
- Avoid caffeine, rich food, smoking, exercise or alcohol just before you go to bed
- Only use your bed for sleeping and sex: don't watch TV or eat in bed.
By creating a space you can unwind and relax in, you're more likely to be able to fall asleep naturally in it. There are some simple steps you can take to help improve your sleep pattern:
- exercise regularly
- avoid caffeine, alcohol or nicotine before going to bed
- keep a regular sleep schedule
- if you've been prescribed medicine to help you sleep, use it only when it's really needed
- don't go to bed hungry
- eat eggs, cod, parmesan cheese or sesame seeds in your evening meal - they contain the amino acid tryptophan, which can help aid sleep
- avoid napping during the daytime.