Sleep - A vital health habit

Restful sleep, Easy breathing, Healthy body.
World Sleep Day
14 March 2014

A good nights sleep is now acknowledged as being vital for our health & well-being. Persistent lack of sleep has a major impact on our ability to function in our day to day lives.  Sleep, and lack of it, affects memory, concentration, coordination and mood. Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is called insomnia. It has also been shown that sleep disorders can contribute to other serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. 

Sleep Debt (the cumulative effects of regularly not getting enough sleep) is well known be worse than intoxication in affecting performance of fine motor tasks and causing injury though accidents and poor judgements.  It is said that it costs billions each year in medical costs and more in lost productivity. 

Poor sleep is also strongly linked with weight gain, obesity and difficulty losing weight.

It is  not fully understood why we require sleep or everything that occurs in our body while we do sleep.  
It is known that growth hormone is released which is important for healing and building the body.  
Also it is well accepted that sleep helps process information from the day and strengthen links in the brain to make long term memories.
Many other processes occur, but research is still continuing as to the precise nature of sleep.  One thing that is definite is that healthy sleep is a huge factor in maintaining overall health.

Everyone’s need for sleep varies, some people can cope better than others with less sleep. On average an adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep per night. The ideal amount of sleep changes across a lifespan, with a decreasing trend from birth to adulthood. The table below illustrates how much sleep each member of your family should be getting each day.

Unfortunately, not many of us will get the required number of hours of sleep tonight. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including diet, anxiety and technology, these factors not only influence adults sleeping patterns but also our children's.

Shockingly, approximately one third of Australian school-aged children suffer from sleep problems and approximately 9% of the adult population suffer from sleep disorders.

10 Tips for a Good Nights Sleep

  1. Have a regular sleep pattern:  Try to go to bed & get up at a similar time every day, this includes the weekend! This can help reduce Monday-itis which is made worse by a really altered weekend sleep pattern.

  1. Spend the right amount of time in bed: Limit the amount of time in bed (max. of 8.5 hours for adults). If it takes you hours to fall asleep try going to bed slightly later.

  1. Bed is for sleeping not entertainment: Avoid TV, your phone & tablet an hour before & while in bed. This will train your mind to associate being in bed with sleeping.
    • The new screens have such bright light that it can trick the eyes into thinking it is daylight, this can mess with the hormonal signals that trigger sleep.

  1. Wind down & relax before going to bed: Avoid using the computer or watching TV an hour before bed. Find a relaxation technique that works for you & perform this ritual nightly.
    • Give yourself at least 45-60 minutes of wind down time
    • Create a routine (e.g. clean your teeth and read a book) to tell your body to get ready for a great sleep
    • Welcome sleep as the best way to have a great day tomorrow

  1. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable: It should be a quiet, dark sanctuary with comfortable bedding and temperature control. A correctly fitted pillow will ensure you maintain correct posture, which will help with a good night’s sleep.

  1. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes: Try swapping to a chamomile tea, with it’s calming qualities it is the perfect way to end the day.

  1. Avoid daytime naps: Sleeping during the day can make it difficult to sleep well at night. If a nap is necessary, limit it to 30 minutes and ensure you are awake for at least 4 hours before you try to sleep.

  1. Don’t lie awake watching the clock: This will only make you anxious about not being asleep. If you still can’t fall asleep, get up and spend some quiet time in another dark room.

  1. Avoid sleeping pills: They may help you get to sleep but they will not fix the cause of your sleeping problem. Herbal remedies prescribed by a health professional may be beneficial to help you get some sleep without the harmful side effects pharmaceuticals can have.

  1. Seek professional help: If you are still having trouble sleeping you may benefit from seeing an acupuncturist or remedial massage therapist.

How we can help
The World Health Organisation recognises that Acupuncture may assist in the treatment of anxiety and emotional disturbances, these may be causing a loss of a sleep or a reduction in the quality of sleep. In combination with Chinese Herbal Medicine it has been successfully used to treat sleep disorders and psychological conditions.¹

Remedial Massage Therapy has many benefits that may help to improve your overall wellbeing and sleep. It has been shown, that massage assists in the reduction of stress and anxiety and promotes relaxation as it decreases the production of stress hormones in the body.  Massage may also help  when sleep disturbances are caused by muscular pain or cramping, as it assists in the elimination of lactic acid and relieves muscle tension. ²

Acupuncture is often used to assist with reducing pain and stress levels. This may also help with sleep. Acupuncture may be able improve sleep directly, as some research has shown in some cases more effective than certain sleeping tablets. 3

Chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy all focus on reducing muscle pain and stiffness, which may also affect your sleep. If you find it hard to get comfortable you may benefit from an assessment as reducing these contributors may help sleep directly in some instances.

If you believe that your bedding may be contributing to your sleepless nights check out our range of Tranquillow Postural Comfort Pillows. You can be expertly fitted to ensure you are correctly supported throughout the night, this may help stop you ‘tossing and  turning’, so you can wake up feeling refreshed for a new day. We can also provide you with information on how to choose the best mattress for you and how to get a great deal with us. If back pain or posture is affecting your sleep it may be best to see our Specialists in spinal care.

Additional Tips for Teenagers and Kids

  • Have a consistent bedtime routine: This will help them prepare for sleep. Quiet activities such as reading or having a bath are good options but avoid electronic devices. Ensure there is enough downtime in a day to unwind all the stress.
  • A light snack before bed: An empty stomach can make it difficult to sleep but you should avoid heavy meals.
  • Exercise and time outside: Exercise and daylight are great for promoting a restful sleep, make sure your kids are spending plenty of time out doors during the day. It is best to avoid exercise at least an hour before bed.

Teenagers naturally want to stay up late and sleep in, particularly on weekends, this is OK as long as the weekend bedtime is no later than 2 hours after week nights. Signs that your teenager is not getting enough sleep include
  • Often late for school
  • Complains of feeling sleepy during the day or napping in the day
  • Feeling moody
  • Change in school grades 

Image Credit: Sleep Health Foundation

1. Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA)
2. Australian Association of Massage Therapists (AAMT)
3. Shao, Yue. "Clinical study on acupuncture for primary insomnia." Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science 15, no. 6 (2017): 410-414.