How much sleep do you get? Sleep is so vital for health and yet many of us try to get by with so little. Studies show that up to 1 in 3 Australians consistently do not get enough good-quality sleep . This means that there are up to 7 million people walking around sleep deprived every day. It seems we are a nation of insomniacs!
So how can you ensure you get a good night’s sleep?
Make sure your room is cool, dark, and quiet – around 18–22 °C is considered the ideal, temperature as is a room that is pitch black, which encourages maximal melatonin production. A room that is quiet is also permissive for undisturbed sleep. If your partner snores consider using ear plugs to reduce noise exposure.
- Remove electronic devices from the bedroom – the light emitted from these devices disrupts the production of melatonin.
- Do not turn on the bathroom light in the middle of the night. Consider buying a dim night light to help you see where you are going.
- Do not take work to bed with you – this increases stress-hormone production, which in turn reduces melatonin production.
- Reduce the time you spend co-sleeping with children and pets.
- Wind down in the evening by dimming the lights, keeping a peaceful environment and stopping work 1–2 hours before bed.
- Avoid caffeine and drinking excessive liquids 3–4 hours before bed.
- Avoid excessive alcohol before bed – although a sedative, alcohol disrupts quality of sleep by causing you to wake when blood-alcohol levels start to fall.
- Practise relaxation techniques regularly e.g. meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing.
Further to this, going to bed earlier is better than going to bed later, even if we get the same amount of sleep. This is because sleep quality has been scientifically shown to
be best in the early hours of the evening.
How Do You Know If You Are Sleeping Well?
To diagnose a sleeping disorder the best way is to conduct a sleep study. This can now be done in the privacy of your own home where you are monitored for disturbed sleep
during the night. The results can be very revealing.
I recall a male patient of mine who was always falling asleep in the afternoons when he got home from work. When he was at work he had no problem because he was kept busy, but as soon as he got home and sat himself in front of the television he was straight off to sleep within several minutes. This concerned him and his wife – he wanted to help out a little more with the kids, but found he just did not have the energy. He reported a full night’s sleep most nights, which puzzled him because he was still exhausted the next day when he woke up. When we undertook a sleep study it revealed that he was actually waking up around 300 times per night! He was not even aware of this. At times he would even stop breathing during his sleep, which was concerning. This condition is called sleep apnoea and is quite common.
For some further information on sleep, listen in to The Physical Performance Podcast where Brad Beer interviews Sleep Expert – Dr David Cunnington.