We all know sleep is important — it’s been attributed to everything from increased productivity to weight loss and can even reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. But Australians aren’t getting nearly enough sleep each night. About four in 10 Australians don’t get enough sleep and they feel tired as a result, according to healthdirect.
We often hear eight hours as being the magical number to strive for, but in fact, the amount of sleep you need depends on your age. According to a study that ran over two years at the US National Sleep Foundation, the amount of sleep needed can vary from between seven to 17 hours.
Most adults aged 26 to 64 years need about seven to nine hours of sleep per night, while those aged 65 or older need seven to eight hours of sleep per night to feel rested and alert.
A lack of sleep can contribute to a long list of heath problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and even Alzheimer’s disease. A study published in the medical journal Neurology found one night of bad sleep may raise Alzheimer’s risk.
GenesisCare thoracic physician and sleep expert Dr Justin Hundloe agrees that sleep deprivation can have serious long-term effects on our overall health.
“Sleep plays a vital role in brain health and cognitive function,” he says. “Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to long-term health effects, including early ageing and increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Lack of sleep can also have significant consequences on our physical health, with higher rates of heart disease, obesity and cancer seen in those who regularly do not get enough sleep. In the short-term, lack of sleep can cause memory loss, anxiety and reduced concentration.”
There are many possible reasons for sleeplessness. According to a recent study, which was released by Philips in conjunction with World Sleep Day, factors putting quality sleep at risk stem from both social and technology distractions.
The research found more than half (55 per cent) of Australian adults wake up one to two times during the night, and 34 per cent typically wake up at least three times during the night. Meanwhile, almost one third (27 per cent) of Aussies surveyed said that stress inhibited their ability to sleep and almost four out of 10 (38 per cent) adults with a partner or spouse report they sometimes sleep separately to improve their sleep.
Other causes may also include too much stimulation before bedtime, consuming too much caffeine, noise disturbance and an uncomfortable bedroom.
Getting on top of your sleep is an important part of managing your health. So, if you’re tired of waking up tired, Starts at 60 spoke to leading nutritionist and Oil Garden ambassador Samantha Lee Carbone to find out her top five tips to help improve your quality of sleep.
First things first, try going to bed and waking up at similar times each day.
“Try to get into a regular sleep and wake cycle, including on the weekends,” she says. “If possible, try to wake up naturally at a similar time every day.”
Carbone also recommends trying relaxation activities, including meditation, reading, or taking a hot bath, and limiting screen time before bed.
“To ensure good quality sleep, I would reduce screen time, but most importantly stop a few hours before bedtime,” she says. “If you’re someone who watches TV or is on your mobile device right before bedtime, maybe try reading a book in bed, or listen to the radio before sleep with dim or no lights on.”
If you’re feeling a little peckish before bed, Carbone suggests snacking on something healthy like yogurt, a banana or a small bowl of low-sugar cereal. Going to bed feeling too full, or eating the wrong foods, can affect your sleep.
Exercise can help you sleep better too – making you fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night. Though it’s important to make sure you exercise at least three hours before going to bed, otherwise this could keep you awake.
If you require a little extra help to get a good night’s sleep, Carbone suggests trying essential oils.
“Diffusing oils in your room before you get into bed is a great way to help you relax before falling asleep,” she says. “Magnesium cream rubbed behind the legs is also a great way to help you wind down.”