Due to numerous studies, many Australians are not getting enough sleep. Here’s how to put that problem to bed.
Following on from our report about employee burnout comes the revelation that over one third of Aussies have trouble getting regular, good sleep, according to the Australian Sleep Health Foundation. Considering the potentially serious effects that insufficient sleep can have on health, it’s an alarming statistic.
We spoke to Feras Karem, managing director of one of Australia’s largest pharmacy chains, Pharmacy 4 Less, to find out why we aren’t sleeping and what can we do to fix this issue.
“The three most common sleep complaints that customers are presenting with are insomnia, sleep apnoea, and sleeplessness caused by general stress and anxiety,” says Karem. “This is highly concerning because good sleep is so pivotal in our overall wellbeing, the regeneration of cells, our cognitive function and so much more.”
With sleep fast becoming one of the most prevalent issues amongst Australians, Feras and the Pharmacy 4 Less team are on a mission to educate the population around good sleep habits, how to identify sleep issues correctly, and different ways to address and fix the issues.
What are the issues and who is affected?
Insomnia involves difficulty falling asleep, returning to sleep, or waking up too early. Sleep Disorders Australia suggest that at least one of these symptoms are experienced by 30% of people in NSW, with women seemingly suffering symptoms almost twice as often as men. Research also suggests that these insomnia symptoms tend to become more frequent with age. The recommended treatment for these symptoms includes:
- Creating healthy sleeping habits;
- Participating in yoga and meditation;
- Herbal remedies such as Brauer Sleeplessness And Insomnia Relief.
Sleep apnoea occurs when a person’s airway becomes obstructed while sleeping, which causes them to stop breathing for a period of time. Associate Professor Keith Burgess from the Sydney-based Peninsula Respiratory Group says “For the vast majority of people, the reason (for the obstruction) is the collapse of the upper airway, typically behind the base of the tongue and at the level of the soft palate.” Treatment of sleep apnea requires consultation with your doctor or pharmacist.
Anxiety and sleep
Believe it or not, anxiety and sleep are directly correlated so it’s not unusual for people who are typically worried or anxious to sometimes experience wakeful or disrupted sleep patterns. Of course, as happens with anxiety, the more you worry about something the worse it can become, so it’s not unlikely if you’re in this situation you’re at risk of establishing negative patterns of thinking about your sleep cycle.
Effective treatment for anxiety and sleep include:
- Regular exercise;
- A healthy, balanced diet;
- Herbal remedies, such as Rescue Remedy or Caruso’s Stress and Anxiety Spray before bed.
Tips for good sleep habits
Karem says “Sleep is incredibly important and if you’re getting six hours sleep or less it could be having major effects on your health. Getting enough shuteye comes with a multitude of benefits, such as protecting your brain, as prolonged lack of sleep can cause the brain to produce excess amounts of amyloid beta – the protein related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It can also boost your life expectancy, improve your heart health (getting less than six hours can significantly raise one’s risk of coronary heart disease), slash cancer risk (US researchers have found that disruptions to a woman’s body clock can increase risk of breast cancer) and reduce sugar cravings, helping to keep your weight in check.”
To help you improve your sleeping habits, Karem suggests the following:
- Don’t eat for at least two hours before bedtime;
- Back away from stimulants like caffeine and alcohol for at least an hour before bed;
- Avoid using screens/devices during the hour prior to going to sleep. Instead, meditate, read a book, or talk to your partner or pet!
- Overnight, leave all devices that give off blue light (i.e., mobiles, laptops) outside the bedroom;
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, comfy and warm (but not too hot);
- Participate in at least 30 minutes of physical activity everyday, to help tire your body out;
- Commit to a nighttime routine so you go to bed at the same time every evening, and get up at the same time every morning.
With just a few small changes you might see some giant improvements in your quality of sleep, and therefore your overall health. It’s true – you really can sleep your way to the top (of good health)!