This week, August 5-11, is Sleep Awareness Week.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for health. Inadequate sleep is linked to both mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, as well as physical ailments such as sleep apnea and diabetes.
In April, a parliamentary committee released a federal inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia. The report made 10 recommendations to help Australians get better sleep and treat the symptoms of inadequate sleep and sleep disorders.
“The importance of sleep is often overlooked but it is one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle,” said Trent Zimmerman, MP, committee chair. “Regularly getting inadequate sleep is linked to a range of serious physical and mental health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia.”
Among the committee’s recommendations were an education and awareness campaign to encourage people to prioritise sleep and highlight that missing sleep has health consequences.
“We need this campaign to be funded,” Professor Dorothy Bruck, Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation said. “Better awareness plus changing behaviours around sleep health is vital to improving the wellbeing of the 40 per cent of Australians who have inadequate sleep.”
Getting better sleep
Developing good sleep habits is key to starting to get better sleep. Here are some ideas to promote good sleep hygiene:
• Routine. The Sleep Health Foundation recommends having a nightly sleep routine. That means trying to go to bed at the same time each night and not having screens around.
• Exercise. The Sleep Health Foundation also recommends getting exercise in the morning and before the evening meal — but not directly before bed. Getting out in the sunshine during the day can also help.
• No caffeine in the evening. Caffeine will keep you awake, so don’t drink a coffee or caffeine-heavy drink within two hours of bedtime.
• Keep your B-vitamins intake to the mornings. Vitamin B boosts energy and mood so it can make it hard to fall asleep.
• Portion control. Eating carbs at night is fine but having a huge meal for dinner can bloat your tummy as it tries to digest your food, which can keep you awake.
• Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Before people had electricity, humans would go to sleep when the sun went down. Your body clock will respond to the darkness and should know it’s time to wind down..
• Don’t skimp on sheets or mattresses. You spend about a third of your life sleeping, so you should take it seriously. Continually getting inadequate sleep, over a lifetime, is a monumental health risk.
For more on the relationship between exercise and good sleep habits, look out for our article on this topic later this week.