Consistently great sleep can be life changing. When we wake feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, we have the energy to accomplish all the things our day holds without having the need to prop ourselves up with stimulants such as caffeine and sugar. Plus, as a bonus, our health benefits exponentially. Sleep is when many vital biochemical processes take place and if we are not getting sufficient good quality sleep, it can lead to various health challenges. In fact, the Australian Epidemiological Association suggests that poor sleeping habits increase the risk of developing long-term health conditions by between 20-40%.
The good news is, there are plenty of things you can try to improve your sleep quality. If you would like 2023 to be the best year of sleep of your life, here are seven healthful habits you can implement.
Prioritise your sleep
Do you find yourself doing ‘just one more task’ or watching ‘one more episode’ even though you know it will cut into your sleep time? You are not alone. Many people prioritise their to-do list or catching up on their favourite show over sleep. While it may sound simple, swapping those priorities to make sure you get adequate sleep over anything else can make all the difference. Adults require 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night so work out when you need to get up in the morning and calculate your ideal bedtime to get the optimum amount of sleep from there.
Minimise your exposure to harmful substances
If you notice you wake up regularly around 2am or experience hot flushes that disrupt your sleep, the source of your sleep challenges may be an overwhelmed liver. Minimising your intake of and exposure to substances that the liver needs to detoxify from the body can reduce its workload. Eating organic or spray-free produce where possible will cut down exposure to synthetic pesticides and insecticides while eating mostly whole real foods and reducing packaged foods will minimise additives and preservatives. Swapping to natural cleaning products and considering which items in your home may be unwittingly adding to your chemical load (such as your mattress) can also reduce the number of harmful substances you breathe in on a daily basis.
Make your bedroom a technology free sanctuary
Backlit devices emit a blue light that can impact on the production of your sleep hormone melatonin. Plus, with phones and televisions available from the comfort of your bed, it can be easy to fall into the bad habit of scrolling through social media when you first wake up in the morning or binging shows late into the night. Notifications and blinking lights can also be the source of unwanted awakenings. Make your bedroom a technology free sanctuary and experience for yourself the difference this makes to your sleep. Wind down with a book, a meditation or a conversation with your partner instead.
Get into a regular exercise routine
Research indicates that exercise can alleviate sleep-related problems and help you to achieve an adequate amount of rest. Conversely, when our sleep duration and quality is compromised, it has been shown to lead to lower levels of physical activity the subsequent day. Try to maintain your routine even when you have not slept well as the benefits are well documented. We suggest finding a type of exercise you enjoy so that it does not feel like ‘another thing’ you need to do each week as you will be more likely to stick to it.
Replace your old mattress
If you know your mattress is getting on in years, it may be time for a new one. If you cannot remember how long you have had your current one, inspect it for signs of ageing. Look for sagging, sinking or stains and listen for creaks and squeaks. If you feel your partner moving more than you used to or are waking up with aches and pains in the morning, those are other signs it may be time for a replacement. Unless your mattress is pure latex, it needs to be replaced at least every 10 years though more likely around the 7 year mark.
Avoid caffeine after midday
You may not realise that caffeine is behind your challenges falling asleep or staying asleep until you reduce your intake or stick to morning consumption. It can take up to 24 hours to eliminate caffeine from your body and, while it may not perk you up for that long, it can linger in your system long enough to impact on your sleep. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others, yet it is still good practice to avoid caffeine after midday.
Rule out any sleep disorders
Sleep disorders are on the rise in Australia, and it is likely that the statistics may be even higher than currently reported since many people put up with sleep challenges rather than seeking intervention. This can sometimes also be because the signs of a sleep disorder are not always evident and are often attributed to other things. If you regularly experience challenges falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up tired even though you may have had a full eight hours of rest, it is worth seeking advice from your GP who might refer you to sleep studies. Sleep is a fundamental building block of great health now and into the future, it is not worth compromising.