Sleep – are you getting enough?
Updated: May 27, 2019
Oh, how I dream (daydream!) of more sleep!
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. However a recent Australian survey reported that 12% of respondents slept for less than 5 ½ hours per night. Unsurprisingly the majority of these people reported poor performance in daily tasks as a result of sleep deprivation.
While it’s not exactly clear why we need sleep, it is obvious that a lack of sleep is associated with negative affects on our health and wellbeing. Inadequate sleep has the following impacts:
Increased stress levels
Increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease
Increased blood pressure and hypertension
Altered mood and emotional regulation
Reduced cognitive performance
Increased likelihood of weight gain and obesity
So why aren’t we sleeping enough?
Life is busy and often stressful. One of my struggles in prioritising sleep is simply trying to fit everything else in! Not to mention that as a Mum, my nights are interrupted multiple times by a crying baby needing a cuddle or feed. However there are many reasons we may struggle to get adequate shut eye. The Sleep Health Foundation lists the following as common barriers to adequate sleep:
Taking sleep for granted - not prioritising it as important.
Too much caffeine, alcohol or sleeping tablets
Eating and drinking late
Failing to wind down before bed (including screen time!)
Drug side effects
So what can we do?
Create a bedtime routine that includes time to wind down from your day and relax. This includes time away from technology and screens. We know that our computers and phones emit blue light that impacts our circadian rhythms and can delay the release of melatonin – the sleep hormone.
Create a sleep sanctuary. The bedroom is for sleep, not studying, working, spending time on your phone. Try to eliminate as much light as you can.
Get up at the same time each day. This is helpful in setting our internal clocks to know that we need to sleep at night.
Limit caffeine intake, based on your individual sensitivity. Some people can sleep well if they switch to decaf at 3pm, others need to cut it out after noon. You may need to experiment.
Exercise regularly, but limit exercise in the evenings. This can actually get us a bit too excited, rather than tiring us out.
For more information and tips on sleep, check out SA Health’s Sleep Health Fact Sheet.