How to create healthy sleep habits
Having consistently good sleep overnight is a great way to increase your mental and physical health. Yet, one in three Australians aren’t getting enough of it. Learn about the impacts of sleep deprivation and how you can create healthy sleep habits.
What is sleep?
Sleep is an active state where the body and mind takes time to recover and prepare us for the next day. Although scientists are unsure exactly why we need sleep, they know sleep is essential for a healthy life.
Every night the body goes through five different stages of sleep in 90-minute cycles. These stages are all important steps to feeling rested. However, several factors can interrupt these sleep cycles.
Experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults, with the sweet spot of eight hours. A good way to tell that you’re getting enough sleep is how you feel when your alarm goes off in the morning. If you feel like the alarm is going off too early, you likely need more sleep.
It’s impossible to ‘make up’ for a bad night’s sleep by sleeping more the next day. If we consistently receive bad sleep, we can become sleep deprived. Symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
- Brain fog
- Slower reaction times
- Memory loss
- Increased chance of making bad decisions
- Negative effects on your mental health
- Impaired immunity
- Excessive yawning
Plus an increased risk of injuries, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity and more.
Creating sleep habits
Sleep consistency is one of the best sleep habits to improve overall sleep quality. We can do this by creating healthy wind-down routines and taking steps during the day to prepare us for sleep.
1.Create a routine
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day is the best way to achieve quality sleep. Even if you haven’t slept well the night before, setting the alarm at the same time will help reinforce your natural body clock.
If you do feel tired during the day from lack of sleep, try combating this by going outside for fresh air and sunlight. You can also try exercising regularly and having hot drinks to raise your body temperature.
2. Turn off the screens
The bright lights from our screens significantly impact our sleep time and quality. Using bright screens before bed consistently over five days can delay the body clock by 90 minutes. This means you go to bed later and sleep in longer. Not only does the screen’s brightness and blue light increase our alertness, but the apps we use on our phones are also stimulating and often addictive, meaning we procrastinate falling asleep. It’s recommended to stop looking at screens at least an hour before sleep.
You can also dim the lights, lamps and use blackout curtains to cue the body for sleep.
3. Limit caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine can last in the body for up to 12 hours, so consuming a coffee after 10 am can impact your ability to fall into a deep sleep at 10 pm. Caffeine is found in types of dark chocolate, several teas and more.
Alcohol is a sedative, so although you may feel tired after a glass of wine, this sleep is artificial and fragmented. Drinking alcohol within six hours of sleep blocks our dream sleep and wakes us up frequently – affecting both our mental and physical wellbeing.
One of the leading causes of insomnia is stress. Sleep allows our flight or fight nervous system to switch off, letting the body know it’s safe to digest and repair. Way’s to de-stress one hour before sleep can include:
- Writing down your to-do list to get it out of your mind
- Or any other activity that doesn’t involve screens.
Another great way to de-stress is to try technology-free mornings. By looking at our phones as soon as we wake up, the brain receives an overwhelming amount of information that produces a burst of anxiety. Over time your brain anticipates this anxiety, which stops you from achieving a night of deep and restful sleep.
5. Sleep when you’re tired
Finally, it’s common for people to lie in bed until they fall asleep. However, if you’re not sleepy, this can cause your brain to associate your bed with a place of worry or alertness. So, if you’re not tired, get up and go to another dimly lit room to do some de-stressing activities (as above) and return to bed when tired.
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