Life is so much easier when you wake up feeling refreshed and alert, so it’s disappointing to know that for nearly half of us out there, it is common to experience difficulty falling asleep, waking up regularly, waking up way too early, and not being able to go back to sleep.
Sleep deprivation is a condition your body and mind enter caused by a lack of quantity and quality of sleep, getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis can cause health consequences for your entire body.
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, around 2 in 5 adults in Australia and, similarly, in New Zealand, are not getting enough sleep. This contributes to the $66.3 billion* cost of insufficient sleep in Australia alone, including nearly $18 billion in lost productivity and workplace accidents due to sleepiness.
There are many factors that can cause a lack of sleep, but some of the key ones that affect a majority of people are:
A lack of quality sleep can have far-reaching consequences, such as significantly impairing cognitive function. Concentrating, retaining information, and making decisions effectively become more challenging, and memory consolidation is also hindered, affecting learning and problem-solving abilities.
This cognitive impairment encompasses our emotional well-being as well, and poor sleep can contribute to mood disturbances, irritability, and increased stress. On top of short-term mood disturbances, the risk of developing mood disorders such as depression and anxiety are also heightened due to a significant reduction in sleep quality and quantity.
Poor sleep can have detrimental effects on physical health, it weakens the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Chronic sleep deprivation has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic disorders. Disrupted sleep can disrupt hormone regulation, leading to imbalances that contribute to weight gain and difficulties in maintaining a healthy weight.
In addition to heightened risks to your physical health, inadequate sleep also affects your physical performance, coordination, and reaction times, increasing the likelihood of accidents and injuries.
So, if the importance of sleep on our health and performance cannot be underestimated, what are some ways we can try and improve our sleep? Below are three broad tips to help you get a good night’s sleep, if these don’t help you, it’s important to seek medical advice.
Factors such as the light and noise in your bedroom should be kept to a minimum, and the ideal ambient room temperature for sleep is around 18°C. These factors are essential to kickstarting your circadian rhythm or body clock, preparing the body for sleep and dropping your core body temperature.
The bedroom should be peaceful, with a supportive mattress, a mattress protector to minimise allergens and fresh bedding. Even furniture placement can make a difference to the feel of the bedroom and leave electronics out of the sleep environment.
Keeping to a consistent bedtime and waketime is important to maintain your body clock, set an alarm an hour before your bedtime to begin winding down.
Turn off electronics, and turn down lights in your room, as bright lights and blue light from phones and tablets override the body’s natural inclination toward sleep. The blue light emitted from electronic devices can reduce the production of melatonin, which is required for sleep.
Don’t drastically change your sleep schedule on weekends from your weekdays, that only confuses the body and disrupts your sleep-wake cycle. Consistency is key when it comes to our body clock, and sudden changes can impact our sleep quality.
Try to avoid caffeine at least six hours before bedtime as it reduces the time you are in slow-wave sleep, the deep, restful sleep stage required to wake up refreshed and alert in the morning. Avoid alcohol before bed also, as while alcohol may induce sleep to begin with, it decreases the time spent in REM sleep, affecting memory, learning, and mood.
Try and exercise daily as well, moderate exercise is not only good for your general health, lowering anxiety and stress levels which affect sleep quality, but it also assists with the onset of sleep and reduces the amount of time lying awake during the night.
Here are a few lifestyle tips you can implement right away to improve your quality of sleep. Consider investing in a Waterproof Mattress Protector, which can provide protection against dust mite, mould, and bacteria allergens. Additionally, Thermocool Pillows are designed to support your head and promote a cooler sleeping experience.
*Hillman D, Mitchell S, Streatfeild J, Burns C, Bruck D, Pezzullo L. The economic cost of inadequate sleep. 2018 Aug;41(8):zsy083.