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Jenny Wigram

Self-care:  how sleep could lengthen your life

Self-care is one of the few effective strategies for demand management, according to the Self Care Forum.  This is positive news at a time of doctor and bed shortages, as well as overwhelming pressures on patient services and staff morale.

Self-Care Week is an annual national awareness week, organised by the Self-Care Forum, that focuses on supporting and embedding self-care across communities, families and generations.  Self-care is a policy priority for BMA and its Patient Liaison Group.  This year Self-Care Week will take place from 13 to 19 November, and the theme is engagement and empowerment.  Last year, the BMA blog explored self-care for minor ailments.  Another strand of self-care is prevention.  Many preventive strategies are quick and easy to deliver and will pay dividends for both the patient and the doctor.

Take sleep, for instance.  How many of us get the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night?  Nowadays, almost one in two people are trying to survive on 6 hours or less of sleep a night.  Are we in the midst of a sleep-loss epidemic?    Many large-scale studies have shown that the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.  There are powerful links between sleep loss and Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes, depression and anxiety, to list but a few.  Adequate sleep boosts immunity, a bonus at this time of year with the possibility of flu on the horizon.

People want more support to self-manage.  A MORI survey for the DoH found that more than 75% said that, if they had guidance and support from a professional or peer, they would engage and feel far more confident about taking care of their own health.  Many patients will welcome simple advice about sleep hygiene as a safer alternative to sleeping pills, as well as empowerment to get enough sleep for their health’s sake, without feeling guilty of sloth.  Last but not least, doctors can look after their patients well only if they, themselves, are well rested. 

For more information on self-care, read the BMA guidance: https://www.bma.org.uk/about-us/patient-information/self-care

Self-Care Week

Patient Liaison Group