For most Australians, the arrival of the weekend comes with the promise of a lie-in – and a chance to catch up on forty winks.
But a local sleep expert has revealed spending your entire Saturday in bed might be doing you more harm than good.
Speaking to news.com.au to mark World Sleep Day, clinical sleep physiologist at ResMed, Tim Stephenson, explained that “many of us believe we sleep enough, but Aussies are actually getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours sleep [a night]”.
According to Stephenson, “there are several misconceptions” that could be getting in the way of a good night’s sleep. Here are some of the most common ones.
MYTH: You can get by with just a few hours of sleep
REALITY: “Everyone needs a different amount of sleep, but most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best.”
MYTH: You can catch up on lost sleep on the weekends
REALITY: “Sleeping in on the weekends may help you feel more rested, but it won’t make up for chronic sleep deprivation during the week.”
MYTH: Snoring is harmless
REALITY: “Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnoea, a serious sleep disorder that can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems.”
MYTH: Napping is a waste of time
REALITY: “Napping can be a good way to catch up on lost sleep, boost your energy levels, and improve your cognitive function. However, it’s important to keep naps short (between 20 and 30 minutes) to avoid disrupting your night-time sleep.”
MYTH: A nightcap helps you sleep better
REALITY: “While alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, it can disrupt the quality of your sleep and lead to waking up frequently throughout the night. It’s best to avoid alcohol before bed.”
A recent Global Sleep Survey conducted by ResMed – involving over 20,000 participants across 12 countries – found that Australia (6.9 hours) was third only to Japan (6.5 hours) and the UK (6.8 hours) in the lack of sleep the average person gets each night.
“The mounting pressures of the cost-of-living crisis have contributed to a decline in our sleep,” Mr Stephenson explained.
“One third (35 per cent) of Aussies say their quality of sleep has declined in the last year due to financial pressures, while 52 per cent of Aussies report that stress has been affecting their sleep since Covid-19.”
If you do find yourself struggling to hit the sack, “there are many common sense things you can do easily to improve your sleep”.
“Be consistent with your habits – stick to your sleep schedule; have a calm, dark and relaxing bedroom; limit exposure to electronic devices and stimulants like caffeine and alcohol; try to have some outdoor physical activity early in the day; don’t go to bed worrying about things – jot them down and deal with them tomorrow,” he suggested.
“Please remember that it is normal for people to wake at night and use the toilet, or have a glass of water. Health conditions, ageing, diet and medications can all have their effects on your sleep.
“If you are awake and just cannot get back to sleep, try getting out of bed and read, listen to music or meditate – avoiding bright lights or screens – and then go back to bed when you start to feel sleepy.”
Asked whether it’s a good idea to use health trackers comparing your day and night activities, Mr Stephenson said “it is important” to look at your sleep in reference to your daily behaviours, “because the quality and quantity of your sleep can have a significant impact on your daytime functioning”.
“If you consistently have poor quality sleep or not enough sleep, you may feel tired and irritable during the day, have difficulty concentrating, and have a higher risk of accidents or errors,” he added.
“Additionally, monitoring your daytime activity can help identify potential factors that may be impacting your sleep. For instance, engaging in stimulating activities, such as using electronic devices or exercising, close to bedtime can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
“Similarly, consuming caffeine or alcohol too close to bedtime can also disrupt your sleep. By tracking your daytime activities and correlating them with your sleep patterns, you can make adjustments to optimise your sleep quality and quantity.”
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