Today marks World Sleep Day, an annual opportunity for us all to focus in on our sleep patterns and look for ways to have quality rest.
World Sleep Day is an annual event, intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, social aspects and driving.
It is organised by the World Sleep Day Committee of World Sleep Society, aimed at lessening the burden of sleep problems on society through prevention and better management of sleep disorders.
Organisers are using the occasion to raise awareness on the importance of sleep during the pandemic. This year’s theme is “Quality Sleep, Sound Mind, Happy World”.
If getting a good night’s sleep is something you struggle with, it looks like you’re not alone.
Recent research from the Phillips Global Sleep Survey 2020 revealed that only 49 per cent of adults are satisfied with their sleep, and only 32 per cent of people feel well-rested every morning.
Research conducted by the World Sleep Society indicates that a bad night’s sleep can effect one’s mood and energy levels during the day. So it is something worth improving on if you don’t usually feel well functioning during the day.
Research from the Sleep Health Foundation also shows that disturbances in our slumber can lead to sub-standard physical and mental health and may increase the risk of developing other chronic health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, stroke, cancer and mental health conditions.
Health Psychologist and Board Member of the Sleep Heath Foundation (SHF) Dr Moira Junge said, “Regular sleeping patterns are vitally important in ensuring an overall healthy lifestyle.
“Consistency is key, go to sleep at similar times most days to help maintain alertness during the daytime and assist you to sleep during the night.”
Dr Jungle added, “For those that struggle to have a regular sleeping pattern such as new parents, or shift workers that may alternate between day and night shifts, there are strategies available to help reduce the disturbances from these lifestyle factors.
“These include being aware of the importance of light and dark and their relationship to our body clock. We need dark conditions to optimise sleep and we want light conditions when wanting to optimise alertness. It is also really important to keep our stress, workloads and caffeine and alcohol levels to a minimum.
“Healthy sleep requires a prelude of a wind-down period in which we prepare our brains and body for sleep.”
Unforeseen circumstances can also affect established sleep routines and impact our health in ways we might not expect. With the widespread introduction of working from home due to COVID-19, many people experienced less light exposure on their daily commute, which in turn affected the body clock by not receiving the light/dark cues at consistent times.
It is important to ensure you make an effort to get out in the daylight by factoring in outdoor activities to your daily routine.
Here are top tips that should help to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep:
CREATE A REGULAR SLEEP SCHEDULE
Creating a bedtime routine, in which you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, is a helpful way to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. You can also practise the same activities each night to signal to your brain and your body that it is time to get ready for bed.
Taking a warm bath, reading a book or meditating are helpful ways to wind down in the evening. If you need to take a nap during the day, make sure it only lasts about 15 minutes or less. Napping too long can make it difficult to fall asleep at bedtime. A regular sleep routine can also help with schedule changes.
PRACTISE GOOD SLEEP HABITS – DITCH THE SCREEN!
Keeping your bedroom dark, at a cool temperature and quiet tends to be more conducive to good sleep. It’s important to avoid excessive light, especially light from electronics, at bedtime. Disrupting the room with a bright or noisy TV, or social media scrolling on a screen, can signal to the brain that it is time to wake up. If you can’t fall asleep, get out of bed to read a book or do other relaxing activities until you feel sleepy again. The Phillips Global Sleep survey 2021 revealed that 84 per cent of respondents use their phone in bed, up from 74 per cent in 2020. Spending time on screens before bed can delay sleep, as the blue light from your phone has been proven to block the hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
With that in mind, you’re better off replacing that late night scrolling with a wind-down routine that doesn’t involve screen time. Reading, meditation or sipping a chamomile or lavender tea or a glass of hot milk before bed are all sleep-friendly activities you can replace that time on your phone with, and they’re sure to set you up for a better night’s sleep too.
CUT OUT HABITS THAT AREN’T SLEEP-FRIENDLY
A quick coffee can feel like a saving grace on a day where you’re not feeling too well-rested, but it can also contribute to a cycle of poor sleep. In fact, caffeine reduces total sleep time and sleep efficiency and it can worsen perceived sleep quality.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. Most people don’t realise how long caffeine stays in your body.
You may be surprised to know that the half-life of caffeine is three to seven hours. This means if you have a cup of coffee at 10 am, you may still have a significant amount of caffeine in your system at bedtime. In addition, alcohol and tobacco use disturb sleep.
Alcohol is a known contributor to sleep apnea, and can cause fragmented sleep, especially during the second half of the night.
SCHEDULE ‘WORRY TIME’ IN EARLY EVENING
Stress is a major contributor to insomnia, and many people find it difficult to “shut off” their minds once it’s time for bed.
If you have a tendency to worry about things, reserve yourself a 30-minute slot in the early evening to plan for the next day.
It may be helpful to write out a schedule of events if you’re worried about checking off your to-do list. A clear mind will lead to a better night’s sleep.
If you feel that you’re not getting good sleep, you may want to discuss it with your doctor.