10 minute clinic: sleep and insomnia

This handy 10-minute clinic is designed to act as a quick reference guide that will help you when advising customers suffering from insomnia and sleep problems. The flowchart below will lead you through the decision-making process to help you respond to customer queries

At a glance

When to refer to the pharmacist

  • Anyone taking prescribed medication 
  • Anyone with any diagnosed diseases/conditions 
  • Anyone with possible depression 
  • Early morning waking 
  • Children under 16 years or the elderly 
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women 
  • If symptoms have been present for longer than a week 
  • Anyone who has suffered from insomnia before 
  • Anyone who has unsuccessfully tried a sleep remedy before. 

Self care tips

  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine for at least four to six hours before bedtime 
  • Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before bedtime 
  • Regular exercise can help, but shouldn’t be carried out within four hours of bedtime 
  • Establish a routine pattern of daytime wakefulness and night time sleepiness to train the body to sleep at night, e.g. avoid daytime naps, only go to bed when sleepy 
  • Ensure the bedroom environment encourages sleep, minimising noise, light and excessive heat at night 
  • Try having a warm bath or milky drink before bed every night
  • If anxiety is the problem, write worries down to help put them to one side until morning 
  • Try relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing 
  • Sleep aids should only be used for a few days at a time. 

Whenever you talk to any customer, remember WWHAM:

Who is it for?

What are the symptoms? 

How long have the symptoms been present? 

Action already taken? 


You don’t have to ask these questions in order, and a customer might give some of this information without you asking. 

As long as you get these into the conversation, you should be able to find out enough information to make a recommendation. The golden rule is: if in doubt, refer to the pharmacist. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for their advice as they have a lot of additional information about products and symptoms to hand.

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