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Are you getting a good night’s sleep?

Whining pets, uncomfortable pyjamas, a late night drink and phones are stopping hundreds of Australians from getting a good night’s sleep, according to sleep experts.

The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleep but specialists at the Sleep Health Foundation say young and old alike are forgetting the most basic rules of a healthy night’s rest.

“Great sleep relies on a quiet room, a relaxed mind and a comfortable bed,” Professor Dorothy Bruck, Sleep Psychologist at the Sleep Health Foundation says.

“But you’d be surprised how many people ignore these important guidelines and snuggle up with their iPhone in their overheated bedroom after drinking too many glasses of wine.”

Sleep is a pillar of good health alongside exercise and nutrition, but many people take it for granted, not realising how much the quantity and the quality of their shut-eye effects how they feel in their waking hours.

Studies show that over 1.2 million Australians experience sleep disorders like insomnia, costing the economy more than $10 billion annually.

To stress the importance of good sleep, the foundation’s sleep experts are giving advice on how to sleep proof the bedroom. Prof Bruck says simple tips like dimming the lights an hour before sleep or removing the cat from the bed can vastly improve a person’s chance of a good night’s sleep.

“One of the most important aspects of this is keeping technology out of the bedroom,” she says. “We strongly suggest keeping your phone on silent or better still, in another room while you sleep so you’re not tempted to check it.”

Having the TV in your bedroom and using it to help fall asleep is also bad news, as you lose the ability to doze off on your own when you wake up during the night.

Specialists urge people to check there are no other potential disturbances, like a bright clock, snoring partner or stimulant drink to hinder sleep.

“Lots of people believe coffee doesn’t affect their sleep but research proves it actually makes deep sleep lighter up to 14 hours after it’s consumed,” Prof Bruck says. “Likewise alcohol. It might seem like that tipple is making you relaxed but it will actually make the second half of your night’s sleep more fragmented.”

She warns that if a person is being kept awake by their partner’s snoring, the culprit may be obstructive sleep apnoea, a common sleep disorder in which the airways partially collapse, blocking oxygen flow and leaving the sufferer struggling for breath.

She has several tips to ease mental worries pre-bed time. “My advice is start winding down early. Turn off your computer, dim the lights, enjoy a warm bath or shower and do relaxing things before you get into bed. Try writing down your worries earlier every evening so you don’t take them to bed with you.”

“These strategies won’t work overnight. You’ll need to work at them over several weeks but trust me, they’ll pay off.”

Another area worthy of attention is the bed itself.

“How comfortable is your mattress, your pillow, even your sheets and your pyjamas?” Prof Bruck asks. “If you’ve noticed that you sleep better when you’re away from home then it’s probably time to make a change.”

Sometimes just keeping the bed clean and orderly is enough to make a difference, according to a US National Sleep Foundation poll that found people who made their bed every morning were 19 per cent more likely to report getting good sleep every night.

The Sleep Health Foundation has developed a 10-point checklist so people can test out how sleep-friendly their room is.

“Some might be surprised to learn that their bedroom is not the sleep sanctuary they think it is,” Prof Bruck said.

“Thankfully we’ve got lots of simple tips to get them snoozing well in no time.”

Visit www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au to complete the survey and find out how your bedroom rates.

Rate Your Sleep Habits

  • Do you regularly use a laptop, electronic tablet or watch TV after getting into bed at night?
  • Is your mobile phone either outside the bedroom or on silent overnight?
  • Is your sleep is disturbed by loud snoring or breathing pauses from either you or your bed partner?
  • Do you often look at the clock when you wake up overnight?
  • Is your sleep disturbed by pets, outside noises or light?
  • Does your body temperature feel comfortable at night in bed?
  • Do you regularly have coffee after 2pm?
  • Do you drink more alcohol than you should?
  • Do you take time to wind down before bed, so you are relaxed in body and mind?
  • Could your bed, pillow and bedding be more comfortable?