If you’re struggling to get enough shut-eye, it might be time to rethink your sleep habits
Feeling bleary-eyed today? You’re not alone. Recent research by the Sleep Health Foundation found sleep deprivation is an epidemic in Australia and it’s taking a toll on our health and wellbeing.
Sleep is now recognised as one of the pillars of good health. While sleep specialists agree we should be making our sleep health a priority, many of us still need a wake-up call.
So, if you’re looking for ways to sleep better, you might need to start by identifying the habits keeping you awake at night.
1. Make sleep a priority
According to a new study by the University of Sydney, there’s a widespread perception that sleep is a ‘waste of time’.
The research shows that in some corporate cultures where working long hours is expected (sometimes even applauded), there’s a strong belief that people who sleep less are more productive. However, this model is out of sync with healthy sleep habits, or good ‘sleep hygiene’ as it’s known.
When we cut corners on sleep, we function below our best – experiencing reduced decision making skills and poor concentration, among other things.
Worse still, lack of sleep is linked to a range of health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression – just to name a few.
So, let’s put the ‘you snooze, you lose’ mentality to bed – and celebrate the benefits of getting better sleep.
2. Change your bedtime routine
Many of us are guilty of not going to bed at the intended time. Maybe it’s because you decided to watch ‘one more episode’ on Netflix, or because you’re up late working, or scrolling on your phone.
If this sounds like you, psychologists have coined a name for your behaviour: ‘bedtime procrastination’. This study is the first to present procrastination as a possible cause for insufficient sleep and researchers suggest a lack of self-control is to blame.
For example, more of us are forgoing sleep to mindlessly scroll on our screens. This means it’s time we rethink our wind-down routines.
You may need to experiment to learn what works best for you. Make one change at a time and try making your bedroom a phone-free zone.
Importantly, aim to keep a regular sleep schedule – even on weekends. A consistent routine is the key to getting better sleep, naturally.
3. Sit less, move more
Studies show regular exercise impacts on sleep – and vice versa. When we exercise, it increases the level of serotonin in your brain, which is a key factor in regulating sleep and other functions.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 54% of Australian women and 51% of men aged 18-64 are not physically active enough. And, if exercise goes a long way to getting better sleep, there’s another reason to work out or walk more.
How would you describe your attitude to sleep?
The benefits of getting better sleep are clear, but ultimately, we all need to make a conscious decision to prioritise its importance in our lives.