Sleep better: 6 ways to improve your slumber

From heart disease to diabetes; Dr Cheng explains how sleep deprivation affects you.

We all have those nights that feel endless – tossing and turning, unable to rest until moments before the alarm goes off. Sleep deprivation can have a real impact on our wellbeing, especially when it happens night after night.

Research released by Medibank shows that almost two million Aussies have been affected by sleeping disorders or sleep apnoea in the past year. The number of admissions for sleep studies has also increased by more than 52% since 2010.

Medibank Medical Director Dr Kevin Cheng says it’s important for us all to think about how much sleep we’re getting when thinking about our overall health.

“Whilst fatigue and daytime sleepiness are common symptoms of sleep deprivation, many people aren’t aware of the adverse effects a lack of sleep can have on their overall health, brain and body function,” Dr Cheng says.

“Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. By embracing better sleep habits, you not only improve your overall health but also protect yourself from future illnesses.”

“Getting enough exercise daily will help develop a better night’s rest, making you fall asleep quickly with a deeper sleeping pattern.”

 

6 tips for a better night’s sleep

To lull yourself into a deeper, more restful slumber, Dr Cheng suggests the following tips:

1. Create an optimal sleeping environment. Adjust the room temperature to keep your body at a comfortable coolness so it will not disrupt your sleep. Sleeping in total darkness helps you fall asleep faster.

2. Exercise regularly. Getting enough exercise daily will help develop a better night’s rest, making you fall asleep quickly with a deeper sleeping pattern.

3. No smart phones allowed. Switch off all electronics. Using devices such as smart phones and iPads before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle. Put everything aside at least two hours before bed to get a restful sleep, including watching TV in bed.

4. Reduce caffeine intake during the day and drink more water. Excessive caffeine intake might disrupt your sleep. Try and limit the intake to one or two cups per day, as caffeine shortens the phases of the sleep cycle. Instead, opt for water, as being hydrated will combat your thirst reflex at night.

5. Meditate or relax. Meditation helps with problems of falling asleep by calming the mind. Practicing meditation during the day will help lower your stress levels, which will help you to fall asleep faster at night. Or try to relax by taking a bath, reading a book or listening to music.

6. Keep to a regular time. Getting into bed at a set time helps regulate the body’s day/night rhythm.

“A good night’s rest is not only key to keeping your concentration and energy up, but also helps to keep the immune system strong,” Dr Cheng says.

“We’ve all experienced the consequences of not getting enough shut-eye. You’re not 100 per cent healthy unless you get at least 6-8 hours of good sleep per night. If you’re struggling, have a chat with your GP.”

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