Healthy Sleep - Sleep Awareness Week
This week is Sleep Awareness Week, so to help you with your zzz’s, we’ve put together some strategies to help you enhance your sleep!
We know sleep has a multitude of benefits, but did you know four in 10 Australians frequently suffer from inadequate sleep? Lack of sleep impairs judgement, impacts longevity and safety, and increases the risk of diseases including obesity, hypertension, heart disease and impaired immune function.
Sleep deprivation is linked to over 3000 deaths each year, from both falling asleep while driving or industrial accidents, and chronic diseases, and costs our country around $66.3 billion.
The most important hormones relating to sleep are in opposition – cortisol is the alerting hormone, secreted in the morning, and melatonin, the drowsiness hormone, is secreted at night.
Strategies for your best night’s sleep:
Expose yourself to natural light for 30 minutes every day, preferably when the circadian rhythm is most responsive – between 6am and 8.30am. If you work indoors, try to take outside breaks throughout the day.
Turn off screens before bedtime to allow melatonin and cortisol levels to normalise. Use blue light blockers on electrical devices to help make more melatonin at night, or wear blue blocker glasses.
Caffeine and Alcohol
Avoid caffeine and alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime, as both affect the neurotransmitter adenosine, which decreases neural activity and facilitates sleep. Caffeine also prevents deep sleep and increases night time awakening. Switch to milk or herbal tea before bed instead.
A star player in health, the gut microbiome activates the gut endocrine system, producing neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. Eat a wide range of minimally processed fruits and vegetables of varying colours, and avoid eating 3 hours before bedtime.
Blocking out light and temperature are two crucial elements in ensuring a good night’s sleep. Core temperature naturally drops to help initiate sleep, but insomniacs have been shown to have a higher core temperature. The best temperature for sleep is between 16-24°C. Mattress cooling pads and quiet fans may help in those with higher core temperatures.
- Gina, Dietitian