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Mythbusting Sleep

Sally-Foyer

There is a plethora of information available on sleep, it's in the media, dispensed by family and friends and of course at the touch of a link via “Dr Google”! It can be overwhelming sifting through numerous and sometimes conflicting articles. What sleep routine should we follow? How many hours constitutes enough sleep and how much is too much? Here at AccessEAP, our clinical team have put on their myth-busting gear and provided simple, actionable information on getting some important shut-eye.

We all need sleep and it is often the thing that when we are busy we cut down on, however sleep is essential to our wellbeing and to our coping. It enables us to physically and cognitively recover and integrate things that have happened during the day. It helps us recover from daily stress and restore energy, without our recommended 7 to 9 hours sleep (for adults aged 18-64 [1]) over time this can lead to an increase of physical pain, anxiety and depression as well as compromising our immune system and general energy level [2].

A normal sleep cycle is 90 minutes and during this time our body temperature drops, muscles relax and heart rate and breathing slows. The cycle includes dreaming REM (rapid eye movement) that enhances learning, memory and enhances positive emotional health, which are all vital to us functioning to the best of our ability during the workday.

Research by Sleep Health Foundation [3] found that 33-45% of Australian adults are sleep deprived most nights, causing irritability, fatigue and undermines our productivity and relationships. The study found women are more likely than men to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, while men are more likely to be diagnosed with sleep apnoea, where breathing repeatedly stops and starts, causing sleep disturbance. A sleepy fatigued person is accident prone, judgement impaired and more likely to make mistakes and poor decisions [4] whether that’s at home or in the workplace.

Serotonin is released during sleep (not stored in the body) and is a mood regulator for general wellbeing. Also, weight gain can be exacerbated by not getting enough sleep because insulin is produced in the middle of the night which assists in food digestion. If we are tired we tend to overeat to gain energy. Another health implication supporting the benefit of sleep is the release of the hormone melatonin that suppresses the development of tumours and assisting the nervous system against degenerative diseases [5].

Tips For A Good Night Sleep

  • Reset your internal clock by spending time in natural morning light without sunglasses. This activates the circadian rhythm to stay in balance making the body clock ready for sleep at night. Lack of natural sunlight can lead to depression, especially in the winter months.
  • Regular sleep patterns, establishing a sleep routine or ritual is about what you do leading up to a set bedtime and also having a set wake up time.
  • For optimum ability to fall asleep your bedroom should be dark and comfortable with moderate to cool temperature.
  • Unwinding half hour before going to bed will give your mind and body time to settle (this includes shutting down electronic devices and TV).
  • It is preferable to keep bedrooms a distraction-free zone. Free of electronic devices.
  • A warm bath or shower before bed can trick the body into relaxation by loosening the muscles.
  • Spicy food, alcohol, caffeine, exercise just before bed, all have a detrimental effect on sleep.
  • Muscle spasms or cramps can keep people awake in this case. Magnesium may help to alleviate symptoms.
  • A helpful approach for a busy mind is to write notes/list before bedtime. These can be used the next day. Also listening to soft music can assist with calming. Do not allow yourself to ‘thrash around' for more than 15-20 minutes before getting up. There are many apps available to help.
  • If you regularly wake up during the night and have difficulty falling back to sleep, it may be helpful to get up, drink some water or a soothing camomile tea, sit and gaze at the stars or quietly breathe, rather than lying in bed tense and frustrated. Once you are feeling soothed and settled, return to bed.
  • Meditation and deep breathing can be helpful before sleeping.

In some situations no matter what self- relaxation techniques are used sleep is not possible. For medical conditions such as hormone fluctuations please consult with your GP. Alternatively, seeing a clinical professional to discuss the wider work/life impacts on sleep and how to manage them, may be of assistance.

Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

[1] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/support/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep-deprivation/effects-on-body#1

[3] https://www.sleephealthjournal.org/

[4] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/sleep-deprivation

[5] http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2007/jun2007_nu_melatonin_01.html

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AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using this content are advised that it may contain images, names or voices of people who have passed away
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indig_flags.jpg

AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using this content are advised that it may contain images, names or voices of people who have passed away.