6 Steps to Better Sleep
Many consider sleep to be a passive "time
out" from living but it is far from being so. It is an
active state essential for renewing our mental and
physical health. As the Irish proverb goes "A good laugh
and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's
Here are 6 simple steps to help you get a good
1.) GIVE SLEEP A CHANCE - YOUR BODY WILL THANK YOU
There are over 100 recognised sleep illnesses so it’s
vital to know that your sleep health
needs good care. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep.
Getting less sleep than you need will
create a ‘sleep debt’ that will lead to poor
concentration, memory, mood, lethargy, aches
and be a detriment to your health. Studies show that a
lack of adequate sleep may lead to
2.) ADOPT A HEALT HY LIFESTYLE
• Exercise regularly
This will help you fall asleep faster, attain more deep
sleep and awaken less often during the
night. A good workout leaves you more relaxed, increases
serotonin (a ‘feel good’ chemical
which promotes sleep). However it’s important not to
exercise too close to bedtime – finish
at least 4 hours before going to sleep. 20-30 minutes of
cardio workout (to elevate your
heart rate) 3 times a week is adequate.
• Maintain a healthy diet
Whatever the latest ‘fashion’ in diets, just follow
these simple principles: Increase your fibre,
fruit & vegetables; keep to foods with low sugar & fat.
Obesity is the biggest risk factor for
sleep apnoea, the leading sleep disorder in our society.
• Avoid foods which give you heartburn and indigestion
3.) MAINTAIN GOOD SLEEP HABITS
• Keep it regular
Your body has a natural 'clock' and your schedule will
train this into a rhythm. So keep your
sleep, awake and meal times as regular as possible.
• Develop a consistent pre-sleep routine
Most of us need a ‘down time’ before sleep and this
should involve relaxing activities such
as reading or listening to music. Avoid watching
stimulating movies or computing. A warm
bath or shower can be very helpful. Try to deal with any
personal problems or anything else
on your mind before retiring to bed instead of letting
these worries compete with your mind
trying to relax. If new worries come to minds don’t
worry – take a pen and paper to bed and
jot down the issues instead of filling your mind with
fear of forgetting and anxieties.
• Reserve the bedroom for sleep and intimacy
You want your body to associate the bedroom only with
sleep, so that subconsciously when you hit the bed, the
brain sends the message “here comes some sleep”. Even
though its cozy in bed, avoid bringing the TV, laptop
etc. to the bedroom.
• Avoid afternoon naps
Aim to keep your sleep to one long nightime segment,
especially if you regularly have
problems falling asleep. Your body’s drive to “pull” you
to sleep increases the longer you
are awake so if you nap 4 hours before your usual
bedtime, this drive is far less than if your
last sleep was 16 hours before the bedtime. Giving in to
the urge to nap in the day only
perpetuates the cycle of sleeplessness at night.
• The "20 minute" rule
Bed is for sleep, not frustration. If you can’t sleep
after 20 minutes, get up and do something
soothing in a dimly lit area preferably. If you get
agitated and lie there tossing and turning
and worrying, your body is no longer relaxed. Your mind
learns to associate the bed with
these feelings rather than “it’s sleep time”. Come back
to bed when you’re sleepy again.
4.) MAKE YOUR ROOM SLEEP FRIENDLY
Everything in the room must invite relaxation and
• Control noise levels
If you live in a noisy area, ear plugs are remarkably
effective. Remember if you have a noisy
snoring partner, take them to your local doctor or sleep
specialist – it is a sign of sleep
apnoea which can be detrimental to their health and
easily and safely treated.
• Keep it dark
Light is one of the strongest cues to the brain’s
internal clock and can disturb the natural
rhythm signaling the brain into thinking it is daytime
rather than night.
• Hide the clock from your view.
5.) AVOID SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY
This is found in foods such as coffee, tea, some cola
drinks and chocolate. Caffeine increases
the time taken to fall asleep and reduces deep sleep. It
is also a diuretic increasing the
tendency to urinate at night. Have your last drink at
least 6 hours before bed time and try
cutting back slowly if you have many cups a day.
You may think that a glass of wine at bedtime will get
you asleep faster however it is
likely to wake you up several times during the night and
give you poor quality sleep. It
dramatically reduces the proportion of deep sleep and
can make sleep apnoea worse. Avoid
alcohol at least 3 hrs before bedtime.
This active ingredient of cigarettes is a stimulant &
interferes with initiation of sleep. During
the night, withdrawal cravings can make you wake up too.
6.) SEEK HELP FROM A PROFESSIONAL
These steps will hopefully set you on the right track
but they are not a panacea for everyone.
Remember that difficulty sleeping (insomnia
persists can pose a serious risk to your
health and well-being but effective treatments are
available. You may well be suffering from
a sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea
, particularly if
you feel very tired or snore loudly.
to your GP or call us at SleepMed Australia on 1300 484