Inadequate sleep is highly prevalent in Australia. It is estimated that 39.9% of Australian adults experience some form of lack of sleep , which is equivalent to 4 in 10 Australian adults.

In 2011 Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) figures show that 4.3% of the population had at least one PBS subsidised prescription for anxiolytic/hypnotic & sedative medications filled.  There are questions however, surrounding these medications, as they more often than not come with a myriad of side effects including dependence, drowsiness, memory loss, rebound insomnia and changes in brain chemistry. They may also prevent discovery of the underlying cause of inadequate sleep in the first place.

Why is Good Quality Sleep Important

  • It aids in muscle recovery
  • Helps balance hormones
  • Increases brain focus, productivity and performance
  • Fights fat
  • Is cardio protective
  • Helps you live longer
  • Boosts mood and energy
  • Increase tolerance to stress
  • Improves immune system function
  • Can assist in weight loss

How to Sleep Better: Get A Good Night’s Sleep.

Research has shown that the number of hours of sleep is not as important than actual sleep quality. Some patients have reported sleeping for 9-10 hours per night yet are still waking feeling tired and sluggish.  It would appear that the adage that you must get 8 hours of sleep a night may not work for everyone and according to a report by Psychology Today it would seem that for most individuals you are better off getting 6 hours of quality sleep, as opposed to a longer period of low quality sleep. Whilst sleep deprivation is different for everyone, some simple questions that can help are:

  • How long does it take you to fall asleep every night?
  • Do you wake during the night? If so, how often?
  • Do you snore?
  • On waking do you feel refreshed or still woozy and tired? Struggling to roll out of bed.

For everyone these answers will be different as will be the impact of the sleep deprivation, let’s take a look at what good sleep quality actually means:

According to the National Sleep Foundation one indication of healthy sleep is how long it takes to fall asleep.  Falling asleep within 30 minutes or less is a good indication of high-quality sleep.

Low frequency of nightly waking is another indication; waking only once per night if at all. If you wake during the night, falling back to sleep again within 20 minutes or less also suggests high-quality sleep.

Tips On How To Sleep Well, And Get A Good Sleep:

  • Reduce your exposure to Blue Light; blue light is the light emitted from sunlight, light bulbs, smartphones, laptops and tablets.  This light sends a signal to our brains to wake up. It is recommended to refrain from using technology for 2 hours prior to going to bed.
  • Try to darken your room as much as possible, using block out shades or curtains.  Sleep masks are also an option.
  • Cover alarm/digital clocks or devices that emit any light.
  • Manage Stress – the main stress hormone cortisol should be increased in the mornings and taper off during the day into the evening.  This gives us the energy needed to get up and start our morning. As it reduces throughout the day this allows us some time to wind down and after dark get ready for sleep.  Often during chronic stress this natural rhythm becomes out of whack and the entire “cortisol picture” reverses, meaning that cortisol levels are low in the morning and higher at night. This causes people to be wide awake when they would normally be asleep.
  • Reduce caffeine – for some people, including myself, I am able to drink a cup of coffee later on in the day and be seemingly unaffected by the caffeine come bedtime.  For most however, this isn’t the case and caffeine becomes far too stimulating, keeping you up until all hours of the night. If you do enjoy your tea/coffee it would be best to have your last cuppa before 2pm.
  • Don’t eat just before bed, our bodies need to rest and digest.  Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry – A well balanced diet can assist in this.

For most, getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t happen overnight. A lifestyle and dietary change however, can be a start. Feel free to contact us for more information on health and dietary related queries, and to join our exclusive group of members today!

Liza Brunell

Adv Dip Health Science Naturopathy

ANTA Member 4148