“Dear 3am, we have got to stop meeting this way, I’d much rather sleep with you”. Author unknown. Put your hand up if you wrote this.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. In fact, approximately 40% of Australian adults don’t get enough sleep, either in duration or quality. Women report that they only have enough energy 4 out of 10 days and men 5 out of 10 days. Common does not mean normal or “acceptable”. Sleep makes you feel well, energetic, focused and happy. You may have the odd bad night’s sleep but if you regularly have poor sleep it can really affect how you feel and what you get done during the day. Is it time you reclaimed your sleep?
Essential element of a healthy lifestyle
Sleep is an essential element of a healthy lifestyle. It is the third pillar of health alongside a healthy diet and exercise. Inadequate sleep not only makes you feel like a walking zombie, but it is driving your current and future health. According to the National Sleep Foundation of Australia adults need 7 to 9 hours of solid sleep every night for overall health and well-being and to prevent chronic illness.
Exhaustion and fatigue impacts both your physical and mental performance. Inadequate sleep affects your mood, motivation, judgement, learning, memory and perception of events. People who have regular, solid sleep are more alert, focused and present. They have better problem-solving skills, more balanced moods, less anxiety and increased confidence. Ongoing sleep deprivation directly impairs your metabolism, immune and digestive function and increases the likelihood of developing chronic health conditions. Sleep deprivation may well be contributing to changes in your appetite, food cravings (especially our mate sugar), weight gain or difficulty losing weight, mood fluctuations, stress, anxiety, brain fog, low energy and fatigue. Lack of sleep may be holding you back from achieving your exercise and fitness goals.
Tweaking your daily habits may help improve your sleep quality and quantity. Let’s face it – we are creatures of habit, so creating a regular routine “trains the brain” for sleep.
10 ways to get a better sleep
- Aim to get to bed and wake up around the same time every-day, including weekends (give or take 30 minutes).
- Turn off screens (phones, tablets, tv’s, laptops) at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The earlier the better. The light from these devices disrupts the production of sleep hormones.
- Try not to worry about getting a bad sleep. If tracking your sleep makes you anxious about how much sleep you’re not getting, ditch the app. You’re better off without it.
- Follow the cycle of the sun. Dim the lights in the home after sunset and let natural light into your room in the morning. Your natural sleep cycle and body clock is set by exposure to natural light.
- Exercise during the day to wear you out for a good night sleep.
- Create a pre-bedtime ritual. Have a warm shower or bath, reading a (relaxing) book, listen to music, practice mindfulness or breathing exercises. Find your “thing”.
- Limit caffeine – in coffee, black tea, energy drinks and soft drinks. Avoid caffeine completely after lunch-time, it’s stimulating affects can last up to 10 hours.
- Limit alcohol – although it might make you fall asleep quickly, it makes sleep fragmented and light.
- Your bedroom should be kept sacred for sleep and intimacy. Avoid doing work, watching tv or using screens in the bedroom. Train your brain that your bedroom is for sleep.
- Your bedroom should be cool, dark, quiet and comfy. A bedroom temperature of 18 to 21 degrees is ideal.
Finally, if you don’t see significant improvement – get help! I am a qualified Naturopath at Gisborne Health Essentials. Herbal and nutritional medicine may regulate and enhance sleep while supporting the consequences of poor sleep. In the consultation process I thoroughly explore the dietary and lifestyle habits that may be impacting your sleep. You will receive a comprehensive personalised Wellness Plan with recommendations to reclaim your sleep. Book a consultation online here or call 03 5428 4484.