GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK
Has catching some shuteye become more of a luxury than a necessity? Read on!
If you’re waking up and reaching for the touché éclat to cover those dark circles and rushing to get that before-work caffeine hit you’re one of a growing number of women suffering from sleep deprivation.
Experts advise seven to- eight hours per night but the reality is we’re getting six to- seven, if we’re lucky, and our lives are suffering, not just our concealer budget!
‘The most sleep-pressured group are women of working age, females with all their balls in the air,’ says Professor David Hillman of the Sleep Health Foundation. ‘Sleep is getting squeezed out because of other pressures related to work, family and social life.’
We’ve all been there; you start your day feeding the cat or racing to day-care, try to fit in a morning jog, meet demanding work deadlines, squeeze in drinks with the girls and update your Instagram before you snooze. Sound familiar?
Sleep psychologist and hypnotherapist Janine Rodd agrees that less time under the sheets affect us more than we realize. ‘Lack of sleep impacts our ability to pay attention, alertness, concentration and problem solving skills.’
It’s not just the odd cranky day at work or snide remark to loved ones, sleep deprivation can cause accidents and injuries and is no yawning matter.
But it is possible to get on top of your sleep debt. Let’s break down the pillow talk with all you wanted to know about sleep, but were too tired to ask.
Sleep is not negotiable.
You might think you can trade sleep for other activities, but if you don’t pay attention to your sleep needs, your brain lets you down in other areas because you need those zzzs to refresh your mind. And we mean nightly, not just on weekends.
‘Not only are you less vigilant but your mood is affected, you’re less sympathetic, and less able to make decisions clearly,’ says Professor Hillman. Put simply, your moods, thoughts and reaction times all suffer.
‘Unquestionably, it is a vital necessity for our body and our mind,’ agrees Janine Rodd. You can’t train yourself to have less sleep. Simple as that.
How much sleep is enough?
On average adults need eight hours sleep a night. ‘Some of us need less and some need more,’ says Prof Hillman. ‘[But] if we don’t get what we need we don’t function as well.’
If you’re not meeting the magic number 8, you’re not alone. The National Sleep Habits survey found that on average Australians are hitting the seven-hour mark, with 30 percent of our community complaining on a regular basis of not getting enough sleep.
‘The big issue is social media and internet in the bedroom,’ says Professor Hillman. ‘Because you’re not allowing yourself a wind-down period.’ So quit the facebook status updates right before bed, that bright screen on your tablet activates the chemicals in your brain, turning on your waking mind, so when you switch the light off it’s not ready to say goodnight.
‘You need to have a quiet wind down period,’ urges Hillman, suggesting at least an hour before slipping into your PJ’s you press the chill button. ‘Then it’s off to bed for eight hours so you can rip into it the next day.’
Hillman also advises that only sleep and sexual activity are meant for the bedroom, so no television or reading in bed as both can disturb a decent slumber. ‘It should be a place of rest and tranquility.’
Are hormones affecting your night?
Yes, quite possibly. ‘Women can be affected by hormonal changes such as during their periods, pregnancy and when going through menopause,’ says Rodd. ‘Research also shows that women have a higher incidence than men of insomnia and depression related to poor sleep.’ And then there’s that other S word, Stress. Nominate a worry time and write down your thoughts to avoid overthinking when you get into bed.
Can I recover my sleep debt?
‘Yes you can!’ says Professor Hillman. But Rodd warns that this is a controversial topic. ‘Sleep debt is not just lost hours of sleep it is also the loss of quality of sleep.’
Hands up if you’ve tried to catch up on lost slumber during a Saturday lay-in? Rodd says, ‘Recovery sleep can be a useful short-term strategy but anything more than 15 hours of lost sleep cannot be caught up on during a weekend sleep-in.’
To pay off your debt to the sandman, go to bed 15 minutes earlier every night and gradually build this up to half an hour or even an hour.
Master a sleep routine
Enjoy the occasional late night out, but otherwise you need a reasonably regular wake up time and go-to-bed time. ‘What you’re trying to do is give your body clock some strong cues,’ says Hillman. ‘We have this day night rhythm of wakefulness and sleep that hormonal fluctuations dictate. The main time givers to the internal body clock are regularity and other things like day and night, regular meals, and regular bedtime. So just like you’ve nailed the lunchtime yoga session or Saturday morning swim, you need to lock down your sleep time too, and not vary it too drastically.
If you have the luxury of squeezing in an afternoon nap, other than when you’re on a tropical holiday, then max it out at 20 minutes. ‘You don’t want to fall into a deep sleep cycle that you cannot complete as that will leave you feeling groggy and worse than you did before your nap,’ warns Rodd.
Sleep and your diet
When you’re tired, you tend to reach for high sugar foods to boost your energy, are we right? Well, it’s a big no no. That high only lasts for so long before you slump lower than before. Eat a balanced diet daily, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and eat at least two hours before retiring or your digestive system will interrupt a perfect night of beauty rest. And we don’t have to tell you that alcohol is disruptive due to its sugar content, so avoid that third glass of champagne.
The science of sleep
Sleep typically begins with stages of non rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). Healthy adults slip into the first stage (N1) minutes after they start to nod off. In only a few winks stage 2, N2, arrives and lasts about 10 – 25 minutes before N3 sets in for a further 20 – 40 minutes. This is a deep sleep that the body needs to process the day’s thoughts and memories. A brief period of N2 sleep returns before an REM episode – this accounts for 20 – 25% of a night’s sleep and is where dreams are made. This pattern continues throughout the night in 90 to– 120-minute cycles.
When it’s serious
Insomnia, a difficulty getting off to sleep in the first place or achieving sleep once awoken, affects about three percent of the community and may require counseling.
Snoring and sleep apnea are both getting worse amongst women, especially with growing obesity.
If these are an issue in your household, there are skilled professionals like psychologists and sleep physicians that can help.
‘I would always suggest behavior and lifestyle modifications to relieve sleep problems, long before medication,’ says Rodd. ‘Underlying medical conditions always need to be ruled out and or addressed first. I recommend mindfulness, and hypnosis especially self hypnosis.’
Written by Kelli Armstrong
More than 1.5 million Australian adults, 9% of the adult population, now suffer from sleep disorders.
An American study found that 36% of parents leave at least one mobile device in the bedroom before they go to sleep.