Experts have outlined the key indicators which show you may have a sleep problem. According to a panel which looked at dozens of sleep studies, those who take more than 30 minutes to drop off to sleep, or who wake up during the night and take more than 41 minutes to drift back into the land of nod may be showing signs of poor quality sleep.

It is the first guidance to be issued indicating exactly what makes up a good night’s shut eye. The experts looked at 227 different scientific studies to come up with their conclusions, saying that people who are awake for more than 15 per cent of their time in bed, and those who wake up more than once during the night, are not getting the quality sleep that they need.

Getting a good night’s sleep is considered vital as those who don’t sleep enough have been found to be at greater risk of developing a number of health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and depression. Studies have even found that poor sleep can even affect fertility.

Sleep as we age

The National Sleep Foundation does point out that sleep patterns can change as we age. However, it says that older people should be worried if it takes them more than 60 minutes to get to sleep once their head hits the pillow. While research has come to differing conclusions about the benefits, or otherwise, of napping, the latest guidance says that adults of any age should not be napping for more than 100 minutes at a time, and that they should not take more than four naps per day, provided that they are sleeping well during the night.

National Sleep Foundation director Dr Max Hirshkowitz said he believed the findings would help the many people who use gizmos such as Fitbits to make sense of whether they were getting a good enough night’s sleep.