Out like a light

Out like a light?

Struggling to catch a good night’s sleep…

If you struggle with sleep, you’re not alone! According to the Sleep Health Foundation close to 60% of Australians experience at least one sleep symptom (like trouble falling or staying asleep, waking too early, and/or not being able to get back to sleep) three or more times a week.

But how much sleep do we need? Things like age, season, and life stage can all influence the amount of sleep required for our health and well-being. Though we are all different, most adults will benefit from around 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

Occasional sleep deprivation can be a nuisance; but ongoing lack of quality sleep can affect cognitive and physical performance, functional ability, quality of life, and is recognised as an important risk factor for obesity. Lack of sleep can affect appetite contributing to increased food intake and the risk of weight gain over time. A recently published small study explored the effect of improving sleep duration in overweight men and women who routinely slept less than 6.5 hours nightly. In those that received personalised sleep hygiene recommendations, sleep duration increased by approximately 1.2 hours per night, which was associated with decreased food intake and weight reduction.

If you are struggling to catch a good night’s sleep below are a few tips that may help your sleep hygiene – or the habits that support good sleep. Some are evidence-based, some just anecdotal. We are all different and respond to different things at different times – play around with those that work best for you to establish your personalised sleep routine. For optimal results be consistent in your sleep hygiene practices.

 

Strategies to use to promote good sleep

There are many strategies you can use to promote good sleep, including making changes to your diet. Weight loss, whether it’s from dietary changes alone or from diet combined with exercise, can help improve the quality of sleep among people who are overweight or obese. On the flip side, lack of sleep can have an effect on appetite, contributing to increased food intake, increasing the risk of weight gain over time.

Move your body

Move your body

Expending energy from your body whether that be through walking, resistance training, swimming, yoga, etc., can support good sleep. While it is commonly suggested to avoid exercise as sleep time approaches; some find it useful to burn this energy off before hitting the sack.

Consider your caffeine

Consider your caffeine

The question of caffeine and sleep can be polarising. Experts generally agree to avoid caffeine consumption within 8-10, even up to 12-hours before bed. Some maintain their afternoon coffee does not affect their ability to fall asleep. If this is you…enjoy that coffee as you wish. Others lie awake for hours at just the smell of coffee. You’ll know what works for you.

Avoid alcohol

Avoid alcohol

Alcohol has a sedative effect that arouses feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. While this may help you fall asleep quickly, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – that restorative stage of sleep when we dream.

The effects of alcohol vary individually but even small amounts can reduce sleep quality in some. According to the Sleep Foundation, light alcohol intake (<2 serves for men or <1 serve for women) decreased sleep quality by 9.3%; moderate intake (2 serves for men or 1 serve for women) by 24%; and high intakes (>2 serves for men or >1 serve for women) by 39.2%. Something to consider when you find yourself reaching for another.

Light up your life

Light up your life

Your internal body clock (or circadian rhythm) responds to changes in light (among other factors) to inform us when it is time to wake and time to sleep. Exposure to (sun smart) sunlight throughout the day – particularly upon waking – supports a better night’s sleep. Conversely, exposure to artificial light – like the glow emitted by smartphones, tablets, computer and TV screens – can suppress melatonin production keeping you awake.

Light up your day by getting outside to enjoy the morning sun and delight in a digital detox of an evening to support your body’s natural clock.

Establish your sleep schedule

Establish your sleep schedule

Aim to rest and rise around the same time each day; even on weekends. Determine a schedule that works best for you and try to stick with it. Appreciating this tip may not support those who work varying shift times.

Set the mood

Set the mood

Consider the bedroom a sacred space for sex and sleep and establish the mood accordingly. Set yourself up for sleep success by creating an environment that supports sleep. A comfy mattress, supportive pillows, soft sheets, and dim lighting will help lull you into a peaceful slumber.

Your body temperature needs to drop 1-3 degrees to fall and stay asleep so keep your room cool and use blankets and doonas that can be added or removed as needed.

Respect your feelings

Respect your feelings

If you are tired, head to bed. You may find yourself awake at 3am struggling to fall back asleep if you push through sleepy feelings watching ‘just one more episode.’ Respect sleepy feelings and take rest.

Count sheep

Count sheep

If you find yourself tossing in bed struggling to fall asleep, some find it useful to count backward from 100 on every exhale. Hopefully, you don’t make it past 80…..

Humming to yourself is another tactic that can help distract a busy mind, activate your ‘rest and digest’ (parasympathetic) nervous system and entice you back to slumber.

Not your thing? Try listening to relaxing music like Tibetan bowls, binaural beats, nature sounds, or other soothing sounds that work for you. Some even swear by listening to their favourite Podcasts.

Check-in with the things that don’t support you

Check-in with the things that don’t support you

In addition to focusing on practices that support adequate sleep, consider those behaviours that are not serving you, like spending excess time in bed, taking long naps throughout the day, using your bed as your office, scrolling through your phone or tablet and/or falling asleep to the TV.

When all else fails

Bedtime

There will always be times in life when sleep eludes us. Being a new parent, long travels, feelings of stress and anxiety or menopausal night sweats may all take their toll on sleep behaviours and duration. During these times, it can be helpful to ignore the ticking clock and take the opportunity to rest.

Make yourself extra comfy (try a pillow under the knees), soften or close down the eyes, scan the body and release any areas where you feel tense, and bring attention to your breathing. Try your best to remain calm and detached from the need to fall asleep and allow the body and mind to rest.

 

There is no doubt sleep is one of the key pillars of health. We need sleep to survive, and beyond that, a good night’s sleep can also lower stress and improve mood, help maintain a healthy weight, assist with concentration and increase energy levels.

 

How Lite n’ Easy can help!

The single most important dietary change you can make to be healthier is to eat five serves of veggies and two serves of fruit each day. But it can be hard, which is why Lite n’ Easy’s complete meal solutions are the way to go. You’ll get to eat the right foods in the right portions throughout the day and get your daily 5+2 simply by enjoying our complete solution with a huge range of delicious meals. Give us a call on 13 15 12 or click here to order now.

Dr Suzanne Pearson, Dietitian, Injury & prevention Specialist and Movement Specialist at Lite n' Easy