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Three steps for a better night’s sleep 

1 November 2019

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We all know how important sleep is. Along with exercise and nutrition, it’s one of the three pillars of good health. But what can you do when your brain is busy and try as you might, you just can’t seem to get a full night’s sleep? 

We spoke to Dr Alex Bartle from the Sleep Well Clinic and picked up some great tips on how to get better quality sleep. 

Three sleep myths

Myth 1: a good night’s sleep is exactly eight hours

Studies show we all need at least six hours of sleep, though the ideal is seven to eight hours during night hours. Some people will find six hours is enough, some will need the full eight and sleeping at night is better for you than catching up during the day. 

Myth 2: a good night’s sleep is staying asleep for seven to eight hours 

Many people seem to think that a good night’s sleep means going to sleep and staying asleep for seven to eight hours. What studies show is that everyone wakes during their sleep. It’s your ability to resettle and go back to sleep that’s important. 

Myth 3: the hours before midnight are more beneficial than the hours after 

It’s true that night sleep is more beneficial than day sleep but if you sleep seven to eight hours during the night, it doesn’t matter which part of the night you do it in. If you sleep between midnight and seven am that will usually amount to quality sleep.

Three steps to take at home, if you’re having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep

1. Check your sleep hygiene

Keep screens out of the bedroom and establish a regular routine

Put your devices away in the lead-up to sleep and don’t bring them into the bedroom. Make sure you have a dark and restful room to sleep in and set up a soothing before-bed routine (read a book or take a bath). And establish regular going-to-bed and wake-up times. 

Seek out sunlight

Sunlight helps regulate your sleep cycles. If you can, eat your breakfast outside. Early morning exposure to light will suppress your production of melatonin (which helps your body regulate its sleep and wake cycles) until later in the day when it will help you sleep. In addition, if you exercise outside in shaded light, without sunglasses you’ll be getting two things that are beneficial for sleep at the same time: sunlight and exercise.

Don’t eat too close to bedtime

Your gut doesn’t work that well at night so going to bed on a reasonably empty stomach is a good idea. If you’re a shift or night worker eating soups or fluids while you’re up at night can be a good way to get the nutrients you need without taxing your gut too much.

2. Teach yourself that bed is for sleep

If you’ve been trying to fall asleep for about thirty minutes, get up. When you’re up, don’t do anything active. Keep the room you’re in dark, meditate or do breathing exercises. 

If your brain is buzzing, try writing down everything that’s on your mind. After 15 minutes, go back to bed and try again. This way, you’re teaching yourself that the thing your body needs to do in bed is sleep.

3. Try sleep scheduling 

This is also known as bed restriction therapy. The idea is to improve your sleep efficiency so that you spend more of your time in bed asleep. The aim is to achieve 90% efficiency. 

For two weeks, try going to bed a bit later than usual. For example, consider going to bed at midnight when your body is especially tired. Then in the morning, get up at six am. This should help teach your body that bed is for sleeping and maximise your sleep efficiency. It’s important not to cut your time in bed to less than five hours though.

When to seek sleep help

If you’ve tried these strategies and your sleep quality isn’t improving, it’s time to seek help. Talk to your GP as a first port of call. There are a range of sleep disorders that could be important to test for and address if found before they impact on your health. 

About Dr Alex Bartle

Dr Bartle has a Masters degree in sleep medicine and 30 years of general practice experience. He founded the Sleep Well Clinic in 2000 and is actively involved in developing sleep medicine education programmes for GPs in Australia and New Zealand. 

The information in this article has been compiled from various sources and is intended to be factual information only. Full details of policy terms and conditions are available from Asteron Life Limited or your financial adviser. For advice on product suitability, please contact your financial adviser. While we take reasonable steps to ensure that the information contained in this article is accurate and up-to-date, it is subject to change without notice. Asteron Life Limited and its related companies does/do not accept any responsibility or liability in connection with your use of or reliance on this article.

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