Getting a regular 7-8 hours of sleep a night is more important than you might think. Not only can getting enough sleep improve your overall health but it could also improve your work productivity too.
If you’re struggling to get the recommended hours under your belt, you’re certainly not alone. Nearly 40% of Australian adults experience some form on inadequate sleep1.
With that in mind, we invited Dr Michael Mosley to discuss this key issue at our first virtual corporate event: Work Better, Live Better – The Importance of Sleep with Dr Michael Mosley.
Here’s what you need to know on improving your sleep and how it could positively impact your health.
How do you know if you’re getting enough sleep?
We all feel tired from time to time however if you’re falling asleep in the day, Michael says it could be a sign that your sleep pattern is disrupted.
“One of the ways you can tell if you’re getting enough sleep is if you go to bed in the afternoon and you just lie in bed and set your alarm for fifteen minutes time and close your eyes… do you fall asleep before the alarm goes off? If you do then there’s a sign that you’re probably not getting enough (sleep)”.
If you are dozing off before fifteen minutes, Michael says you should also pay attention to the time it takes to fall asleep.
“If you fall asleep within ten minutes that means you are seriously sleep deprived” says Michael. “Within fifteen minutes, not good, if it’s within twenty minutes that’s fine.”
So, what can I do to improve my sleep?
Implement a night time routine
One of the most important things you can do to improve your sleep is to foster good bedtime habits by implementing a consistent night time routine. Michael suggests setting a sleep window for when you wake up and go to sleep and sticking to it. You can help yourself further by going screen free before bedtime, making sure your room is completely dark and quiet in order to create the best sleep environment.
READ MORE: How to set up your bedroom for better sleep
Eat your way to a good night’s sleep
Once you’ve nailed your night time routine there are a few other things you can do to help improve your sleep. Focusing on your diet is important to your overall health and that includes your sleep quality. Michael and his Fast 800 program follow a Mediterranean style diet which includes lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and wholegrains. Alongside this, cutting back on caffeine, alcohol and late night treats before bed could have a positive impact on the quality of your sleep.
Cut down on stimulants
While for some a glass of wine at night can be relaxing and help you nod off quickly, once you fall asleep alcohol is actually damaging to your sleep cycle. Research conducted at the London Sleep Centre suggested that alcohol interferes with REM sleep, the deepest sleep stage, resulting in a choppy, wakeful night that can leave you feeling unrefreshed in the morning. The more alcohol you drink, the greater the impact on your sleep.
Your late afternoon caffeine boost might be disrupting your sleep, even if you drink it hours before bed. The Sleep Health Foundation notes that caffeine promotes alertness by inhibiting chemicals in the brain that promote sleep. It is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream and reaches peak levels within 30-70 minutes, however it can then last 3 to 7 hours and may take up to 24 hours to fully eliminate caffeine from the body. There’s no hard and fast answer on how many hours before bed you should have your last coffee or caffeine intake. Some say it should be avoided for 3 to 7 hours before sleep whilst others recommend no caffeine after lunch time. The important thing to remember is that if you’re struggling to get a good night's sleep, cutting down your overall caffeine intake could have a positive effect2.
Find your work-life balance
You might have noticed that getting to sleep has been harder during the Coronavirus pandemic.
With many of us working from home, it may be a challenge to switch off after a day’s work, which in turn could affect our ability to get to sleep.
Michael suggests that making some small changes could help us separate home life and work life and pave the way for better sleep.
Try finding a healthy transition from your work day to your evening at home by going for a walk or simply stepping away from your workspace and reading a book or doing a short meditation. Michael also suggests that you set a cut off time from your work and stick to it – no checking your emails right before bed!