We've all been told to 'go to bed early' at one point in our lives but do we really know why? Dr Cunnington, a specialist physician from the Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre who has worked in the area of sleep medicine for over 10 years finally tells us what our parents didn't.
What really happens to our body when we don't get a good night's rest?
Sleep is one of the pillars of good health - it's as important as nutrition and exercise. Research shows sleeping well is fundamentally important for not only how effective and productive we are in our lives, but also how we think and feel.
A poor sleep has been shown to cause problems such as poor concentration and performance, issues with mood and increased anxiety. People with insomnia are nearly 2.5 times more likely to have accidents. It has been linked to depression and has also been shown to reduce the ability of the immune system to fight off infection.
Can you catch-up on sleep?
You can catch up on sleep. Most of us notice we get a little more tired across our working week, and then sleep a little more on our days off to catch up. So, it is important to schedule some time for extra sleep after a time of being particularly busy and missing out on sleep, or if we have had shortened sleep because of a few late nights or early morning starts.
Is the 8 hours a night a myth? Is it different for every person?
The average amount of sleep each of us needs is 8 hours. While sleeping in can help repay a sleep debt - it's better in the long run to maintain a regular sleep pattern. The amount of sleep people need to feel refreshed and alert the next day varies for each individual - some people may only need five hours a night, with others needing up to ten. Most of us know from our own experience how much we need to feel good the next day.
What are some of the other common myths about sleep?
Sleepiness during the day will not necessarily get better the more time you spend in bed. Good sleep needs the right length, timing and quality. Similarly, the old adage about one hour of sleep before midnight being worth two after is not true.
Another myth is that sleep stays the same throughout life. Once we reach young adulthood our sleep needs gradually reduce for the rest of our lives.
What are the top 5 things you can do to get a good night's sleep?
There are a number of good sleep habits, known as sleep hygiene, that you can do to get a good night's sleep, including:
- Have a regular sleep pattern - go to bed at the same time each evening
- Wind down and relax before you go to bed
- Have a comfortable bedroom - a quiet, dark room with good temperature control
- Don't lie in bed awake - if you can't sleep after trying, get up and try and do something to relax before going back to bed
- Avoid stimulants like coffee or alcohol or exercising right before bed
If you're having trouble sleeping, when do know it's a problem and should see someone?
Insomnia refers to difficulty in either falling asleep; staying asleep; waking too early or a combination of these that causes some level of daytime impairment. Insomnia is considered chronic if symptoms continue for more than a month and occur three times a week. In these circumstances, you should speak to doctor.
Curious about how well you're sleeping? Find out over here.