Sleep for Better Health

sleep for better health
Written by Vicki Ma  (Accredited Pracitising Dietitian and Sports Dietitian) 

Nodding off as you read this? Are you getting enough sleep?

Studies are showing we’re a sleep-deprived nation – Australians are not spending enough time clocking up the Zzzz!

Lazy weekend sleep-ins seems to be a thing of the past. Many people are now sacrificing sleep to get more out of their day. Here’s the thing (and you may not like to hear this), not getting enough sleep can create a nightmare of problems. It can lead to poor concentration levels, causing you to be less productive throughout the day. Sleep deprivation can also have an impact on our mental health and could increase the risk of developing obesity as well as other chronic conditions.

Consider this as a BIG wake-up call!

Why is sleep important?

1. Improves memory

Research suggests that sleep plays an important role in memory. During sleep, we can strengthen our memories and practice skills learned whilst we were awake (this process is called consolidation). Getting optimal sleep each night is vital for our learning and memory.

2. Helps with weight maintenance

Sleep has a big impact on our metabolism and hormones that control our appetite. Not getting enough sleep can increase our ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels and decrease leptin (satiety hormone) levels. This will make you feel more hungry and lead you to eat more. Sleep deprivation also increases the stress hormone cortisol, which can have an effect on our metabolism and increase our appetite. Getting adequate amount of sleep is very important for weight management.

3. Reduces stress

A restful night of sleep helps you feel more productive and able to take the day’s stress more easily. When you’re tired, you’re less patient and easily agitated, which can increase stress. Practicing good sleeping habits and relaxation techniques can help improve your quality of sleep.

4. Improves mental health

Sleeping well helps improve our overall well-being. Being sleep deprived can have a dramatic impact on our mood and can contribute to depression. Studies have shown having adequate amounts of sleep can significantly reduce negative thinking, anxiety and emotional vulnerability.

How much sleep do I need?

Teenagers require between 9 -10 hours per night

Adults require between 7 – 9 hours per night

Tips for getting a good night’s sleep

  • Switch off electronics one hour before bed-time. The light from the TV or computer screen can suppress melatonin and the brightness is more stimulating rather than relaxing.
  • Establish a regular sleeping pattern. Try and go to bed at the same time every evening and get up at the same time every morning.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, caffeinated drinks and nicotine in the evening. These are stimulants and can keep you awake.
  • Ensure your sleeping environment is comfortable. Keep your room dark, cool and quiet.
  • Avoid daytime naps. Sleeping during the day will make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. If you do need a nap, try to limit this to only 20 minutes.
  • Exercise regularly, but not too close to your bedtime. Studies have shown regular exercisers sleep better and feel less sleepy during the day.

By practising these simple steps it’ll help you wake up and feel refreshed!

Note: If you’re still experiencing issues with sleeping after trying all these techniques, make sure to speak to a medical professional.

References:

Andruskiene J, Varoneckas G, Martinkenas A, Grabauskas V. Factors associated with poor sleep and health-related quality of life: National Library of Medicine (2008). 240 – 246.

Manousakis J. The sleep habits of an Australian adult population: A report on the 2015 online sleep survey from the Sleep Health Foundation. Monash University (2015).

Morselli L, Guyon A, Spiegel K. Sleep and metabolic function: European Journal of Physiology (2012). 139 -160.

Tsuno N, Besset A, Ritchie K. Sleep and depression: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (2005). 1254 – 1269.

Sleep Health Foundation. Tips for a good night sleep [cited 2017 March]. Available https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/public-information/fact-sheets-a-z/225-tips-for-a-good-night-sleep.html

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