Getting a good quality night’s sleep is one of the essential foundations to overall health. Its purpose is to rest and regenerate your body and mind so that you wake feeling refreshed, full of vitality and ready to be productive in your day. Biologically, sleep is important for regulating your hormones, mood, body weight and blood sugar levels so it is important to give some attention to this topic when addressing various health concerns.
Adults should aim for a total of 8 hours sleep per night, however there are some common barriers to achieving a solid block of deep rest. Some people have difficulty falling asleep. Others experience interrupted sleep with frequent waking. Waking in the early morning and being unable to get back to sleep is familiar for some people. Others have poor quality sleep which results in reduced functioning the following day.
There are many varied and valid reasons why so many people are at risk of sleep deprivation:
- Parents of new babies and young children
- People who work on rosters or night shift
- Those experiencing stress, grief, anxiety, depression, acute or chronic pain
- Needing frequent visits to the toilet
- Having a snoring partner
- Experiencing sleep apnoea
- Hearing external noises such as a dog barking or loud traffic sounds
- People who use electronic devices late at night
Sleep hygeine is the term given to the lifestyle habits and environmental factors that impact on the quality of your sleep. Being mindful of your behaviour during the day and in the lead up to bedtime can significantly improve your ability to fall and stay asleep. Achieving a good night’s rest will benefit your physical health and mental alertness during the next day.
The following recommendations are designed to help you create healthy sleep habits:
- Aim for 8 hours of sleep
- Exercise regularly, but not late in the day
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon after 2pm
- Alcohol may relax you, but reduces sleep quality
- Switch off screens, i.e. television, mobile phone, computer at least half an hour before going to bed
- Have a warm bath or shower to relax you. Try adding some epsom salts or essential oils such as lavender
- Go to bed and wake at the same time every day to establish a pattern
- Avoid sleeping tablets in the long-term as they are addictive
- Get some sunshine early in the day to stimulate melatonin production and Vitamin D
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool—use a sleep mask or earplugs if necessary
- Avoid electronic devices and T.V. in the bedroom—sleep and romance only!
- Have a suitable mattress and pillow
- Playing peaceful music may help to calm the monkey mind
- Sip on a warm drink, such as chamomile tea prior to bedtime
- Use relaxation or meditation techniques (yoga or slow, deep breathing to relax the nervous system)
If you recognise that your sleep is being impacted by stress, grief, anxiety or depression, please consider seeking professional counselling with one of our Psychologists.
If you continue to experience insomnia or are concerned that you have sleep apnoea you should consult your General Practitioner who can refer you to a sleep physician.
Source: “Love Laughter and Longevity: The Art and Science of Wellbeing,” by Janni Goss