You snooze, you…win? Five tips for a successful night’s sleep
When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep? You know, a good solid, 8-hours of rest and relaxation where you wake up feeling refreshed.
There’s a good chance it’s been a while.
Approximately 33 to 45 per cent of Australians aren’t getting enough good quality sleep most nights (Source). That means close to half of us are enjoying aftereffects such as fatigue and irritability. Great mix, right?
Why sleep is so important
Basically, it’s doing your body a whole world of good.
During sleep, you actively remove toxins from your body and brain, growth hormone is released (for growth in children and tissue repair in adults) and the digestive system takes a well-earned break.
Sleep is intended to refresh and revive you, so if you feel the opposite when you wake up, try these five tips for some superior snoozing (just make sure you set your alarm).
1. First, do the obvious
Start with some of the most obvious and talked-about tips:
2. Don’t drink too much before bed
That’s water and other fluids as well as alcohol. Being hydrated is vital, and the good thing is, our bodies are wired so that we can usually sleep for a number of hours without requiring a trip to the bathroom.
But, if you find you’re waking to go to the toilet, try sipping water throughout the day and avoiding water around two hours or so before bed (Source).
As for alcohol, just like smoking, it disrupts your circadian rhythm by altering the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
3. Cut the caffeine
Try limiting yourself to 200mg of caffeine per day (Source) (about the amount you’ll find in two cups of coffee). If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s also a good idea to avoid caffeine after 2pm to set you up for a good night’s sleep.
Remember, caffeine is also found in some medicines, in soft drinks, energy drinks and even in dark chocolate - a piece of dark chocolate can have up to 30mg of caffeine!
4. Don’t eat too close to bedtime
You don’t want to go to bed hungry, or too full. So, allow at least two hours between your evening meal and bedtime. If you find your dinner time is well before you go to bed, a light snack before bedtime can help (Source).
5. Check you don’t have a sleep disorder
An undiagnosed sleep disorder may be the reason for your restless nights. Common sleeping disorders include insomnia, sleep walking, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea, for example, affects around 9% of women and 25% of men in Australia (Source). It causes inconsistent and interrupted breathing and happens when a person’s throat is partially or completely blocked (Source).
A person with sleep apnoea can stop breathing multiple times during the night. When breathing stops, muscles work to resume breathing and this causes the person to gasp for breath before falling back to sleep. So, if you’re affected, you may not even know it because you don’t really wake up.
Sleep apnoea is damaging because it stops the normal sleep cycle which is critical for health and brain function and can contribute to a number of other health problems including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and insulin resistance (Source).
If you think you might have sleep apnoea, talk to your GP for more information.
Our hunter gatherer ancestors may have slept at sundown but may have woken at night before sleeping again until dawn. So, if you wake, try not to put the lights on. Practice some yoga, deep breathing or meditation.
Remember, our sleep patterns only really changed when electricity became commonplace and we artificially extended daylight past our natural sleep time.
How’s that for a little history lesson?