Sleep is the golden chain that links to our overall state of wellbeing. Getting your crucial hours of shut eye each night allows the body to recharge and repair itself, the mind to process information and form memories, and the spirit to rejuvenate. Despite how important sleep is, do you ever trade it in for more time when your schedule gets busy? Whether it’s to finish work, socialise or simply watch (just one more!) episode of our favourite TV show, most of us are guilty of sacrificing sleep or sleep quality.
Australia's Sleep Health Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep for adults aged 18 to 64, and at least 7 hours for those aged 65 years or more. However, recent studies show that only a third of Australians are getting enough sleep on average, and over half of the population is experiencing sleep issues such as difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep*.
Lack of sleep can lead to daytime tiredness, along with a range of physical and mental health problems. We're pulling back the covers on the sleep epidemic to give you the inside scoop on why it's important and how to prioritise it in your life.
Quality and quantity
While it's important to ensure you're getting the hours of sleep you need, the quality of your sleep is just as crucial. Sleep quality refers to how well you sleep, including the amount of deep sleep and overall restfulness. If you're constantly tossing and turning or waking up frequently during the night, your body isn't able to regenerate properly and you may feel fatigued during the day even if you've technically slept for 8 hours.
Good quality sleep involves going through all stages of the sleep cycle and waking up feeling refreshed.
The first stage is light sleep, followed by deep sleep where the body repairs itself and restores energy. The final stage is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, where the mind processes information and forms memories. Waking up during this stage can leave you feeling groggy and impacts your ability to concentrate.
How to prioritise your sleep
Putting sleep first doesn’t mean losing more time – it’s understanding a good night's rest is crucial to our overall wellbeing and enriching the quality of our waking hours.
Read on for our tips to improve your sleep hygiene and make sleep a priority...
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine: This could involve getting your nose into a good book, listening to calming music or ASMR, or even popping into the tub for a relaxing bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil. Try taking a quality Magnesium supplement before bed to support muscle relaxation, helping you unwind and drift off to dreamland.
- Limit screen time and switch off: The blue light emitted from our laptop or phone screens can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep. Avoid using electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime to allow your brain to wind down naturally.
- Make your bedroom a comfortable environment: Keep your room cool, dark and quiet to promote deep sleep. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light, and invest in a good quality mattress and pillows for additional comfort.
- Avoid caffeine and heavy meals close to bedtime: Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 8 hours and disrupt your sleep, so try to avoid it after midday. Similarly, eating heavy or spicy meals before bed can cause indigestion and make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Our bodies thrive on routine, so aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This helps regulate your body's circadian rhythm (internal clock) and promotes better sleep.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021. Sleep problems as a risk factor for chronic conditions. Cat. no. PHE 296. Canberra: AIHW.