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New Year’s resolution: Getting enough sleep

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Getting enough sleep in the New Year

Getting enough sleepMany people underestimate the importance of achieving enough rest and sleep. Sleep restores our daytime functioning, consolidates our memories from the day and saves the body’s energy.

There are many different people who are at risk of poor sleep and accordingly the negative effects this has on time spent awake. People who are very stressed, depressed or anxious, shift workers, students, people with two jobs, and overweight people are at higher risk for poor quality sleep. When they do sleep, they may not be getting enough of it. On average, Australians report feeling sleepy up to 5 months of the year!

Extreme daytime sleepiness and headaches can occur after only a couple of nights of poor sleep. In addition, poor sleep has a negative impact on weight, depression, stress, productivity, memory, learning, social functioning and mood. You may be suffering from any of the latter symptoms without knowing that poor sleep is a cause. Most importantly, the consequences of not having enough sleep for drivers can be fatal, not only for the driver but for passengers and other people on the roads.

In order to improve overall wellbeing and safety, why not make it a resolution to treat yourself to some sleep!


Why aren’t Australians getting enough sleep?

It is very easy to be ignorant of the fact that you are one of the many Australians who are not getting enough sleep and rest. So the first hurdle is identifying that you do need more sleep and why you have not been getting proper rest. This time of year is perhaps the best time to identify this; after the mad rush to finish work before the holidays or finishing exams, and the huge celebrations during the festive season, people can feel incredibly burnt out instead of refreshed and ready for another year.

Once you are aware you need more rest and you are dedicated to prioritising this in the New Year, a wise first step would be to see your doctor. Your doctor will first evaluate whether there are any underlying causes for your inadequate amount of rest. For some people this may be very easy to determine – for example, new mothers could easily name the reason they are not getting enough sleep! But when you find yourself tired from interrupted sleep and you are not sure why, it is recommended you seek advice. Your doctor can help you determine what routines and habits, or excess stress in your work life, or personal issues that may be impacting the quality of your sleep. Whatever the cause, it is necessary to identify it to avoid these “triggers”.


The benefits of sleep


Sleep and weight control

Getting enough sleepSleep is an essential component of weight control. Diet, exercise and sleep are all interlinked, and weight control is not achieved or maintained without a healthy balance between them. Without enough sleep, you will not have high enough energy levels to perform exercise. Instead, energy is supplemented with extra food intake. Big meals in turn affect a good night’s sleep, and so the cycle is repeated.


Sleep and memory

Sleep has a beneficial effect on memory; in fact, one of the major functions of sleep is to consolidate the information that was presented during the day, creating long term memories. This includes all type of memories, from motor learning and motor sequence learning (like riding a bike), to declarative memories. Declarative memories are memories that you can, as the name suggests, declare. Reciting the times tables is a form of declarative memory, whereas driving a car is an example of motor sequence memories.


Sleep and mood and emotions

Studies have shown that lack of sleep has a detrimental effect on mood states. Without proper rest, negative emotions are stronger in response to distressing events, and positive emotions are weaker in response to encouraging and optimistic events. In other words, with the optimum amount of sleep you will experience more happiness and less sadness!


Sleep and alertness and cognitive function

Everyone at one time or another has experienced the effect that lack of sleep has on alertness and cognitive performance the next day. Restless sleep causes a decrease in brain activity, which in turn impairs performance at work, school and home, not to mention driving. Proper rest will help you achieve the optimal performance in all aspects of waking life.


Sleep strategies

There are many different ways to ensure you are in the best possible position to get enough sleep. The most valuable of these is to make sure you plan, schedule and prioritise sleep into your schedule. In order to do this you may need to use some of the following strategies:

  • Make sure you are comfortable in your sleeping environment;
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine in the afternoon;
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption;
  • Exercise regularly, but give yourself three hours after exercise for your body to relax before you sleep;
  • Avoid “triggers”;
  • Use relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, warm baths, warm drinks and soft music before bedtime;
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine; and
  • Establish a regular sleeping pattern.

More information

Health in the New YearFor more information on staying healthy in the New Year, including tips on diet, partying, exercise and general health, see Health in the New Year.
SleepFor more information about sleep, including how much is good for you, tips for getting more sleep, and sleep disorders, as well as some useful videos, see Sleep.

References

  1. Healthy sleep [online]. Pfizer Australia Health Report; 35: 1-8. 13 March 2007 [cited 17 December 2009]. Available from: URL link
  2. National Sleep Foundation. ABCs of zzz’s [online]. 2009 [cited 17 December 2009]. Available from: URL link
  3. Bartlett DJ, Paisley L, Desai AV. Insomnia diagnosis and management. Medicine Today. 2006; 7(8): 14-20.
  4. National Sleep Foundation. Healthy sleep tips [online]. 2009 [cited 17 December 2009]. Available from: URL link
  5. National Sleep Foundation. Diet, exercise and sleep [online]. 2009 [cited 17 December 2009]. Available from: URL link
  6. Tucker MA, Fishbein W. The impact of sleep duration and subject intelligence on declarative and motor memory performance: How much is enough? J Sleep Res. 2009; 18(3): 304-12.
  7. Zohar D, Tzischinsky O, Epstein R, Lavie P. The effects of sleep loss on medical residents’ emotional reactions to work events: A cognitive-energy model. Sleep. 2005; 28(1): 47-54.
  8. Thomas M, Sing H, Belenky G, Holcomb H, Mayberg H, Dannals R, et al. Neural basis of alertness and cognitive performance impairments during sleepiness. I. Effects of 24 h of sleep deprivation on waking human regional brain activity. J Sleep Res. 2000; 9(4): 335-52.
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Dates

Posted On: 18 December, 2009
Modified On: 12 July, 2010

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