As the research focus of health in general has shifted from the absence of disease to defining what constitutes optimal health, so too is the relatively new field of sleep study looking at sleep health, as more than the absence of sleep disorders.

While researchers are still precisely unclear about exactly what occurs during sleep, most agree that sleep allows our bodies to reserve energy, restores our minds and bodies; and sleep has also been linked to a potential role of consolidating memories and processing information from the day.   In our modern 24-hour society, complete with all hours availability of the internet, research into the effects of poor sleep health on overall health and lifestyle is becoming an area of great interest.  By all accounts, its agreed that sleep is essential to physical and emotional wellbeing.   With this in mind, we have put together a list of recommended practices for sleep health that you might like to consider.

Sleep Health - Turn off electronic devices that emit light

Turn off electronic devices that emit light

Electronic devices such as laptops, iPads, TVs and smart phones all emit blue light.  Light suppresses melatonin production which is the hormone that your body produces for sleep, particularly pulsating blue light from LED screens.

Sleep Health - Sleep in complete darkness

Sleep in complete darkness

Even the tiniest bit of light can disrupt your internal clock and your production of melatonin and serotonin, so it’s a good idea to make sure that curtains are closed and the room is as dark as possible.

Sleep Help - How sleep affects your work.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed

Caffeine in tea and coffee is a stimulant that prevents restful sleep and while alcohol makes you drowsy, it affects REM sleep, decreasing sleep efficiency, and contributes to the onset of waking after falling asleep.

Sleep Health - Comfortable sleeping environment

Comfortable sleeping environment

Contribute to your sleep experience by having clean, fresh sheets and a comfortable bed.  The smell and feel of fresh sheets have been reported to contribute to people’s sleep experience.  So too, has quiet surroundings and limited light.

Sleep Health - Wind down before bed

Wind down before bed

Finish up work or study at least 2 hours before bed to give your mind an opportunity to wind down.  You may also like to record your thoughts in a journal so that your mind is less active when it’s time to go to sleep.

Sleep Health - Regular bed routine

Regular bed routine

Establish a bedtime routine that helps you to relax before sleep.  Turn the TV off well before bedtime and incorporate some deep breathing, essential oils, meditation or meditative music or sounds to fall asleep to.

Sleep Health - Foods that affect sleep.

Choose your evening snacks carefully

Avoid snacks right before bed, especially grains and sugars as these raise your blood sugar which can delay sleep.  Instead, opt for a high-protein or carbohydrate snack a few hours before bed, which provides L-tryptophan, an amino acid that aids in production of melatonin and serotonin.

Sleep Health - Get some daily sunlight

Get some daily sunlight

Regular bed routine

Natural bright sunlight increases melatonin which helps you to fall asleep more quickly and helps you to stay asleep, and is also thought to reverse daytime fatigue.

Sleeping pills

Avoid sleeping tablets if possible

Sleeping tablets should be used as a last resort and their use should be limited.  Sleeping tablets sedate the brain, however they don’t allow for the normal restorative cycles that occur during natural sleep patterns.

Sleep Health - Exercise regularly

Exercise regularly

A study published in Sleep Medicine journal showed that people who participated in regular exercise reported improved sleep and overall feelings of wellbeing.  Exercise also increases serotonin levels and reduces stress, contributing to better sleep.