Ever end up staring at the ceiling when you should be fast asleep? There are probably some big mistakes you’re making at bedtime.
Researchers say drinking, smoking and the light from your phone at night can be keeping you awake when you’re trying to sleep.
Other bad sleep habits that can affect your sleep include exposure to loud music and eating rich foods within two hours of your bedtime.
It might seem obvious but pets in the bed and a lack of exercise also affect your quality of sleep.
Researchers from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) recommend going to bed and waking up at the same times each day.
Most people think they can cut corners when it comes to sleep and work off their sleep debt on the weekend.
But NeuRA sleep scientist Hanna Hensen says 40 per cent of Australians are not getting enough sleep, which is detrimental to their mental wellbeing.
“Disrupted or inadequate sleep can negatively impact every organ in your body and is associated with anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders,” Dr Hensen said.
WHAT DOES SLEEP HAVE TO DO WITH MENTAL WELLNESS?
Every 90 minutes, a normal sleeper cycles between two major categories of sleep. During quiet sleep, a person progresses through three stages of increasingly deeper sleep. The body temperature drops, muscles relax and the heart rate and breathing slow.
“The deepest stage of quiet sleep, called slow wave sleep, is the constructive phase of sleep, repairing damaged tissues, stimulating growth and development, and boosting the immune system,” Dr Hensen said.
The other sleep category, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is also known as dream sleep, because this is when you dream. REM sleep plays an important role in learning and memory consolidation, and contributes to emotional health — in complex ways.
“By getting insufficient sleep or sleeping poorly, we are not giving the brain and the body space to recover from the previous day,” Dr Hensen said. “This causes us to be less sociable, more emotionally unstable and less resilient the following day.”
Researchers say a lack of sleep will also influence our ability to work, making us less creative and efficient, and impacting our motivation, judgment and decision-making.
“If you are working with large figures, writing an article, handling transactions or controlling machinery, inadequate sleep will adversely affect your success and accuracy at work,” Dr Hensen said.
STATS ABOUT SLEEP
1. 40 per cent of Australians don’t get enough sleep
2. Just 18 hours without sleep is the equivalent of having an 0.08 blood alcohol level and 24 hours without sleep is equivalent to an 0.12 blood alcohol level
3. Poor sleep makes you eight times more likely to have a car accident in the morning
4. Inadequate sleep increases the risk of anxiety and depression
5. Men who get five hours sleep a night for a week have significantly lower levels of testosterone than those who get a good night’s rest. Their levels reflect those of someone 10 years older.
TIPS TO GET A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP
Here are Dr Hensen’s top tips for improving sleep quality:
1. Go to bed about the same time every night and wake up the same time each morning
2. Avoid long naps if possible — no longer than 20-30 minutes
3. Dim bright lights in your room and switch to soft lamps two hours before bed
4. Switch off your mobile phone and monitors before bed — no computers, phones, blue lights or monitors in bedroom. If it’s not possible, turn on night mode or put a blue light filter on your screen
5. No caffeine, sugar treats, or cigarettes at least four hours before bed
6. Don’t stay in bed awake for more than 30 minutes. Get out of bed and sit in a chair in the dark. Read a book (not on an e-reader of iPad). Or listen to music until you are sleepy then return to bed. No TV or internet as that will only stimulate you more and keep you awake
7. Turn the sound down. If you usually listen to music replace this with soft sounds of the ocean, rainforest or something relaxing
8. Avoid eating heavy foods before bed. Heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion. When this occurs close to bedtime it can lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep.
This article was contributed by Neuroscience Research Australia, a Sydney-based not-for-profit institute focused on brain and nervous system research
This piece by Ellice Mol was seen on ‘News.com.au‘, 20 November 2018.