We Need To Talk About Our National Sleep Crisis - And Fix It
Prioritising a good night's rest could change all our lives, explains sleep coach Cheryl Fingleson
Australia is the midst of a serious sleep debt crisis - and it's costing us our health and wealth. New sleep research just published shows that one in five Australians take three or more sick days a year because of exhaustion. The cost to employers is $3.7 billion a year, according to the 2018 Sealy Sleep Census, and it's only set to get worse. So why are we all getting so little sleep and what can we do to turn this around?
As a sleep consultant I'm always talking to exhausted clients about what they can do to encourage good quality sleep. Thankfully, there are so many methods and techniques we can implement into our everyday lives.
Take a sleep audit Over the next few days, make a note of when you go to sleep, when you wake up and rate your quality of sleep out of ten. Don't rely on a phone app, smart watch or fitness tracker to do this job. Keep electronics out of your sleep space and use pen and paper.
Note down when you drink caffeinated drinks; refined carbohydrates or junk food. Record what exercise you do and when, as well as how much time you spend outside in sunlight. In the evening, record how long you spend on a screen and when you turn them off.
Have a look at your wind down routine: do you meditate, shower or read before bed? Then observe your sleep space: is your bedroom very cluttered; do you have light blocking blinds or curtains; is there a lot of noise; is your room or bedding too hot or too cold?
And this is a big one: in the middle of the night, how many times do you reach to check your phone?
Make sleep your number one priority
Obesity, diabetes 2 and other chronic and often deadly health conditions are linked to inadequate sleep so it's really important to make it a priority.
Now you know what your bad and good habits are, you can take some proactive first steps, including:
1. No caffeine after midday; follow a healthy, low-refined carbohydrate diet, avoid junk food and sugary foods, especially in the evening.
2. Consider your exercise routine: if you sleep badly after working out in the evening, hit the gym earlier in the day.
3.Get out in natural sunlight once a day for at least twenty minutes to help reset your body clock.
4.Go to bed and wake up at the same time, seven days a week. Studies show a sleep debt from the week can't be paid off at the weekend.
5.Have an electronic sunset in the evening: dim the lights, lower the noise, no screens at least an hour before bed. Don't binge watch TV shows late into the night!
6.Make your sleep space conducive to rest. Don't use heavy, hot bed covers; keep the temperature around 18-20 degrees; keep out artificial and natural lights.
7. Write a worry list an hour before bed. If you wake up in the night with your mind racing, transferring them onto paper may help remove them from your thoughts.
8.If you struggle to get to sleep, or wake up in the night and can't get back to sleep, go and do something else away from your bed. Don't stay there tossing and turning and stressing. Read a book in the lounge. Don't go on your phone.
9.Keep phones out of the bedroom. I can't stress this enough. Checking emails, social media or texts in the middle of the night is one of the main culprits for sleep disturbance.
10.Lastly, sleep well - your body and bank balance will thank you!
- Cheryl Fingleson