They say a good night’s sleep can cure a world of ailments. This World Sleep Day is the perfect reminder to check in on your sleeping habits, and address any sleep problems you might be having.
Medibank Clinical Psychologist Dr Melissa Lehmann says the importance of sleep should not be underestimated.
“Our bodies need sleep in order to function properly, both on a physical and mental level,” she says. “Getting enough quality sleep – about eight hours a night – improves concentration, mood, ability to function and alertness. It strengthens the immune system and reduces stress levels, and keeps blood pressure and cardiovascular levels in check. It even helps you lose weight, by regulating the hormones that control the appetite.”
For many people, though, getting more (and better quality) sleep is much easier said than done. Dr Lehmann says it’s essential to address any sleep issues you are experiencing, and to seek professional help when necessary.
“It’s important to get treatment for any identified disorders, such as sleep apnoea (where a person’s breathing is impacted during deep sleep), as they can have a range of effects such as increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and other medical conditions,” she says.
“Getting enough quality sleep – about eight hours a night – improves concentration, mood, ability to function and alertness."
Australians and sleep troubles
Last year, Medibank paid out over $8 million on behalf of its members on sleep studies – a process whereby a person’s sleep is monitored for sleep disorders. Over 10,000 members experienced a hospital admission for a sleep study, with the 60-64 years old age group being most common.
Interestingly, the biggest growth in admissions was for the age group 10-14, which increased 30% on the previous year. This was followed by the 30-34 age group, which increased 19%. Men were more likely than women to participate in a sleep study, accounting for 63% of admissions.
Data from Google searches further demonstrates Australians’ interest in sleep and sleep related conditions. On average each month:
- 14,800 Australians search “insomnia”
- 3,800 Australians search for “sleep apnoea”
- 480 search for “sleep walking”
6 tips for a good night’s sleep
To improve your sleeping patterns, Dr Lehmann suggests:
1. Set a regular bedtime. Go to bed at the same time every night, choosing a time when you normally feel tired. Try not to break this routine on weekends when it may be tempting to stay up late.
2. Wake up at the same time every day. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock to wake up on time, you may need to set an earlier bedtime.
3. Use the bedroom for sleep only. Keep the television in the living room or another part of the house.
4. Avoid alcohol and nicotine, and don’t eat a big meal right before bedtime. Your body will still be digesting, which will impact the quality of your sleep.
5. Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark.Try using earplugs and an eye mask.
6. Exercise gently early in the evening. This will help make sleep deeper and a nightly routine can signal to the body that you are preparing for sleep.
Get more tips and advice for a better night's sleep.