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  • Writer's pictureKate Bradshaw

The Importance of a Good Nights Sleep

Did you know that 4 in 10 Australians don't get enough healthy sleep?

Good sleep is essential to good health. A good night's sleep helps you feel good and be more alert, you feel more energetic and can concentrate better. Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being. Be your best self and enjoy life through better sleep

Your body and mind depend on a good night's sleep for your physical and mental health as well as your quality of life. While we sleep many important functions take place that helps the body to repair itself. Sleep also supports brain function and improves memory and mood.4 Without enough sleep we are more likely to experience problems with reaction times, thinking, concentration, memory, mood and it increases the risk of mistakes and accidents.

Sleep is a fundamental human need and, along with nutrition and physical exercise, it is one of the three pillars of good health. However, it’s often overlooked and ignored despite the increasingly clear link between insufficient sleep, chronic illness and reduced productivity.

Because sleep is as fundamental need, if you’re one of the 7.4 million Australian’s getting insufficient sleep, now is the time to focus on first discovering whether you have any high risk conditions (such as obstructive sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome and insomnia), and then getting the right amount of quality sleep.

For adults, that’s between 7 and 9 hours each night. For school children, between 9 and 11 hours each night. And for adolescents, between 8 and 10 hours, each night.

Getting enough sleep is important for your own health. But it’s also important for your family and fellow Australians who might suffer the negative consequences of mistakes you’re more likely to make if under slept. Getting an adequate level of sleep is essential for mental health and well-being and inadequate sleep has been associated with increased rates of depression and the development of dementia.

Sleeping poorly night after night can also contribute to long term chronic health problems. Millions of Australians aren't sleeping properly and many of us will experience health issues as a result. Healthy sleep habits, also called good sleep hygiene, are habits you can develop to help you sleep well. While you can’t make yourself sleep, there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.

Things you can do to improve your sleep include making some simple changes to your environment as well as changing the timing of certain activities, or what you eat and drink.

  1. Regular sleep patterns-Help your body to establish a healthy sleep routine by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.

  2. Spend the right amount of time in bed-While 8 hours of sleep is recommended, some people require more and some require less. Try to limit your time in bed to no more than 8.5 hours. So if it takes you a long time to fall asleep, try going to bed later.

  3. Bed is for sleep, not screens-Computers, phones and TV can disrupt your sleep. Your mind needs to associate being in bed with sleeping rather than watching TV or using your computer. Don’t stay in bed if you’re wide awake.

  4. Relax before bed-Find a relaxation technique that works for you. Try to establish a buffer zone before bedtime where you’re not trying to solve any problems or thinking about tomorrow, but just relaxing and preparing for bed. Try to avoid using your computer and smartphone during the bedtime buffer zone.

  5. Ensure you are comfortable in your bedroom-Your room should be the right temperature, as well as quiet and dark. Make sure you have comfortable bedding, and try to keep known stressors out of your bedroom.

  6. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes-These substances have far reaching impacts on your physical and mental health, with disrupted sleep being just one. While alcohol might make you sleepy initially, it tends to disrupt your sleep cycle, leading to poorer quality sleep. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can also prevent you from sleeping.

  7. Don’t nap-Unfortunately, sleeping during the day will make it more difficult to nod off at night time. If a nap is really necessary, try and limit the duration to half an hour and make sure you’re up for at least 4 hours before going back to bed.

  8. Try not to clock watch-If you can’t sleep, checking the time heightens your anxiety about not sleeping. If possible take the clock out of your room.

  9. Try to avoid sleeping tablets-Sleeping pills don’t address the cause of your insomnia and won’t help you long term. Sleeping pills should only be prescribed by a trusted doctor who fully understands the reasons why you might be struggling to get good quality sleep. Your doctor must also keep a close eye on the use of sleeping pills while they are being taken as they are addictive.

  10. Ask for help if you need it-If you regularly wake up feeling tired, always restless in bed, have trouble getting to sleep or find that being tired is affecting your mood, it might be time to go and see your doctor.

In most cases, sleeping pills are not the answer — they aren’t suitable for regular use as they are addictive and don’t address the cause of sleeping problems.

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