Tips for Healthy Sleep

Healthy sleep habits are often referred to as having “Good Sleep Hygiene”.  There are many things that can be done to improve your sleeping habits.  Having good sleep habits may sound simple enough, but life is busy with work, study and social activities and we tend to overlook the importance of sleep.

Sleep Debt

Yes you can be in debt when it comes to sleep.  The common thought is that we need 8 hours sleep per night,  but this isn’t necessarily the case.  Studies have shown some people require less than 8 hours sleep per night to function optimally (we call these people ‘short sleepers’), whilst others require slightly more (‘long sleepers’).  Depending on if you’re a short sleeper or a long sleeper, you should be getting 6.5 hours (minimum) to 9 hours (maximum) per night.

If we do fall short on getting the appropriate amount of sleep per night, we start to accumulate a sleep debt.  It is possible to ‘pay-off’ the debt if we sleep a hour longer – say for a couple of nights, but beyond 2-3 days, there is no benefit gained by doing this.

It’s easy to recognise when we’re in a sleep debt – our energy subsides, we get ‘foggy’ minded and perhaps even feel nauseous – but with long term sleep debt, the physical and mental impacts can become serious.  Not getting enough sleep can lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Physical health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and inflammatory diseases are also more likely to develop when were not getting enough quality sleep.

Insomnia

Insomnia is the most widely reported sleep disorder, with about one third of us experiencing insomnia at least one time in our lives. We all have nights when we just ‘don’t sleep’. But insomnia is rather a sleep disorder that is characterized by extended periods of frequent sleeplessness and may be caused by underlying conditions such as sleep apnea.

If you have trouble getting to sleep, you may be thinking too much about it.  It seems counterintuitive, but studies suggest an ambivalence towards falling sleep is a helpful approach to achieving it. Worrying about falling sleep is often the cause, or at least a contributor to insomnia. So just relax, and sleep will come to you easier than if you worry about it.

Saying this however, there’s a number of things you can tick off, that ultimately give you the best chance of having a quality sleep.

Below are some useful tips if you suffer form Sleep Debt or Insomnia.

If you think you may have sleep apnea contributing to insomnia, you can take our free online screener to check your risk. Or contact us for more information.

Keep away from Sleep Debt

To keep away form sleep debt, focus on keeping a routine sleep schedule, go to bed and rise at the same time each night. If your scedule changes for a night or two, you can pay back the short term debt the night after by an extra hour sleep.

Use your bed for sleeping and sex

Avoid everything else, like watching television in bed, playing video games, eating in bed, lying in bed during the day or playing with your smart phone while is bed. This is so your body learns that when you go to bed it's time for sleep.

Make your bed comfortable

Always ensure your bedroom is appropriately dark and has fresh air. In winter or in summer, keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature isn't always easy, but use blankets and bed clothes to keep warm, rather than shutting up windows to make the room stale.

Avoid blue light at night

This has become a common issue in recent years with the development of smart devices. Most smart devices now come with a blue light filter that can be automatically applied after a certain time in the evening. It is recommended that this filter is used.

Avoid clock watching

Often what happens when people don't sleep, is that they keep turning to the bedside clock (or nowadays, their smart phone) to check what time it is. And the most common reaction is "Oh wow, I cant believe I'm still awake at this hour!". Ultimately this behaviour only reinforces worry and anxiety about sleep and will perpetuate the problem further.

Keep to a schedule

Always try to keep to a schedule - going to bed at the same time and rising at the same time. This will help to teach your body when it's time for sleep.

Talk to a GP

In some cases, there may be an underlying reason for your insomnia such as sleep apnea. Your GP is a good starting point, who can assess your specific case and refer you to sleep testing facility such as Sleep Testing Australia, a sleep physician or sleep psychologist.