Wellbeing

In bed with Dr Michael Mosley

One of the best things we can do for our health and wellbeing is get a good night’s rest. But after the nightmare that was 2020, many Australians aren’t getting the sleep they need or the surprising health benefits that go with it. So, we called in our resident sleep expert Dr Michael Mosley, author of Fast Asleep and founder of The Fast 800 programme.

Written by Editor Medibank

Sleep. We all do it and we all need it. But while it’s something we should be able to do with our eyes closed, a large amount of us have trouble getting it. According to founder of The Fast 800, sleep expert and Medibank Ambassador Dr Michael Mosley, more than half of adult Australians are suffering from at least one chronic sleep symptom that is affecting their ability to live a healthy, happy life. Given sleep is so important to us, this is a worrying statistic. According to Dr Mosley, ‘too little sleep can devastate your body, brain and microbiome (gut bacteria), dramatically increasing your risk of developing a range of chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and dementia.’  

So, how much sleep should I be getting? According to the Sleep Health Foundation, these are the targets you should be hitting:

 

Age Recommended May be appropriate Not recommended
Newborns
0-3 months
14 to 17 hours 11 to 13 hours
18 to 19 hours
Less than 11 hours
More than 19 hours
Infants
4-11 months
12 to 15 hours  10 to 11 hours
16 to 18 hours
Less than 10 hours
More than 18 hours
Toddlers
1-2 years
11 to 14 hours
9 to 10 hours
15 to 16 hours
Less than 9 hours
More than 16 hours
Preschoolers
3-5 years
10 to 13 hours 8 to 9 hours
14 hours
Less than 8 hours
More than 14 hours
School-aged children
6-13 years
9 to 11 hours 7 to 8 hours
12 hours
Less than 7 hours
More than 12 hours
Teenagers
14-17 years
8 to 10 hours 7 hours
11 hours
Less than 7 hours
More than 11 hours
Young Adults
18-25 years
7 to 9 hours 6 hours
10 to 11 hours
Less than 6 hours
More than 11 hours
Adults
26-64 years
7 to 9 hours 6 hours
10 hours
Less than 6 hours
More than 10 hours
Older Adults
≥ 65 years
7 to 8 hours 5-6 hours
9 hours
Less than 5 hours
More than 9 hours



And how do you know if you’re getting enough? Try this simple Spoon Test at home.  

If you’re someone who isn’t getting enough shut eye the good news is, there are ways you can improve your sleep quantity and quality to help you wake up feeling refreshed. Here are a few of his suggestions to help you S.L.E.E.P. better.  

Stop drinking caffeine from 1:30pm

Are you someone who enjoys a cup of coffee for a bit of an afternoon pick me up? According to Dr Mosley this is a big no-no. Putting caffeine into your system anytime after 1:30pm will affect your ability to sleep. 

Leave no sleep distractions in your room 

Do you scroll through social media in bed? Don’t! “Your bedroom should be for sleep and for sex,” says Dr Mosley, “nothing else.” Contrary to what many people may have heard, the issue isn’t the effects of the blue light coming from your phone but rather the mental stimulation from the endless scrolling. If you want to take sleep seriously, you need to remove all distractions from your bedroom. 

Exercise early when you wake-up 

There was once a time when the sun was our natural alarm clock, and with good reason. Getting outside in the morning and doing exercise in the sun releases serotonin, which tells our bodies to wake up! 

Eat nothing before bed 

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re someone who likes to wind down with a cup of tea and a biscuit in the evenings you should reconsider. Eating anything around 2-3 hours before bed increases your body temperature, which can stop you getting to sleep. 

Prepare for sleep 

If you go to bed with thoughts in your head you may find it harder to fall asleep. Try a short meditation before bedtime to help you relax and switch off. It probably comes as no surprise that stress is one of the main causes of insomnia. Expressing gratitude is a proven way to reduce stress, so if you’re stressed you could also try listing three good things that happened to you during the day just before you get into bed. 

Don’t just lie there 

OK, so you’ve followed all the tips but you’re still lying there tossing and turning? It may seem counter intuitive, but Dr Michael Mosley says the best thing to do if you haven’t fallen asleep within roughly 20 minutes of closing your eyes (estimate, don’t watch the clock), is get out of bed and out of your bedroom. Ideally, you’ll spend this time doing something soothing such as reading a book, meditating or listening to calming music to help get you in the mood for sleep again. 

Wake up to sleep 

Although some of us find it difficult to fall asleep, the most common sleep problem is waking in the middle of the night then struggling to get to sleep again. If this is you, Dr Mosley has some suggestions.

  • Try a breathing technique – While there are lots of different breathing techniques which Dr Mosley outlines in Fast Asleep, his chosen method is the 4-2-4. Basically, breathe in through your nose while you count to 4. Hold your breath for 2, then breathe out through your mouth for another 4. A few minutes of this should help you relax. 
  • Challenge your thoughts - Do crazy thoughts invade your head in the middle of the night? You could try challenging them. Here’s an example from Fast Asleep. 
    “I won’t get to sleep and if I don’t, I will feel really tired tomorrow and won’t be able to function”
    Challenge: “I’m sure I will get to sleep, I normally do. But even if I don’t, it will be fine.”
  • Don’t just lie there - Again, if none of these techniques have worked after about 20 minutes you should get out of bed. The main thing is to try not to worry about the fact you’re awake or what that means for the next day. 

Need a good night’s sleep? For more detailed information on the science of sleep, how sleep impacts our health and ways you can improve your sleep, visit Dr Michael Mosley’s website where you’ll find information on his new book Fast Asleep.

Health concerns keeping you up at night? Medibank members with hospital cover can call our 24/7 Medibank Nurse phone service any time of the day or night, at no extra charge on 1800 644 325. OSHC members should contact the Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283.

 

Medibank has partnered with The Fast 800 and its ambassador, Dr Michael Mosley, to share evidence-based tips and advice to improve your health and wellbeing. The Fast 800 online programme is an innovative approach to long-term weight and health management, using the latest scientific research to help you fast, eat and move for longevity. Dr. Michael Mosley is a world-renowned science presenter, journalist and author of best-selling books, including Fast Asleep, The Fast 800 and Clever Guts Diet. Talk to your GP before making changes to your diet.  

Father hugs his daughter

Sex, Heavy Metal, and Skinny Dipping. Could this be living better?

What if living better didn't come with a guilt trip? See how real Aussies are living better and still doing the things they love.

Written by Editor Medibank

Previous article

Re-think alcoholic drinks

Next article

What’s your goal for the Lunar New Year?

Related articles