Everyone needs different amounts of sleep to function at their best

Some of us wake up feeling fresh after six hours, while others struggle getting out of bed before having an eight-hour snooze.

Either way, the majority of us could probably use some help to improve the quality of our sleep.

Whilst there are many professionals out there who have conducted studies into sleep issues, such as snoring, there has not been much research behind struggling to get a good night’s sleep…until now.

According to Harvard Medical School, most of us struggle to get a good night’s sleep because of growing pressures.

The researchers behind the program stated, “We are a society that burns the candle at both ends, where people stay up all night to study, work, or have fun. However, going without adequate sleep carries with it both short and long-term consequences.”

So, just how bad is the sleep situation in Australia? Here’s what you need to know.

The facts

Recently, The Australasian Sleep Association and Sleep Health Foundation released a report saying many of us do not place enough importance on sleep.

“By the time the average person reaches his or her average life expectancy of around 80 years, they will have invested 28 years of their lives in sleep. It is remarkable that an activity of this scale is so taken for granted,” the report said.

“There is a natural tendency to invest effort in activities that provide conscious reward, and sleep risks being assigned a low priority compared with activities that occur during wakefulness.”

Along with this, Sleep Health Foundation released a study revealing that:

  • 20 to 35 per cent of Australians suffer from disrupted sleep, inadequate sleep duration, daytime fatigue, excessive sleepiness and irritability
  • 5 million Australians (9 per cent of the adult population) suffer from sleep disorders
  • Sleep disorders cost Australia more than $5 billion a year in healthcare and indirect costs.

How to sleep better

It is recommended you consult with your doctor if you are regularly experiencing problems getting to sleep. Your General Practitioner can refer you to a specialist or sleep disorder clinic if necessary.

A few tips you can try yourself include:

  • Turn off all electronic devices – by eliminating screen time as soon as you hit the mattress, you will find it easier to get to sleep earlier, as you are only associating your bed with sleep. This also means you are not exposed to as much blue-light which can interfere with the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin – so the less exposure close to bedtime, the better.
  • Avoid naps during the day – By avoiding naps during the day, you will find it much easier to fall asleep at night. The experts from our home doctor Gold Coast team recommend if you do need to snooze during the day, keep it to 20 minutes or less and if possible nap earlier in the day. If you are experiencing low energy in the afternoon, try going for a short walk to help perk up.
  • Turn your clock away – Glancing at the time during the night can create a distraction from sleeping and make your mind race, thinking about the upcoming day and keeping you awake. Try putting your clock or phone in a drawer, away from view or even under your mattress instead.
  • Set a body clock – It is important to have your body clock set by going to sleep and waking up at approximately the same time each day. According to our home doctors, creating this routine will make your brain and body get used to being on a healthy schedule between sleeping and waking up.
  • Watch when you drink caffeine – Drinking caffeine, for example coffee, is typically fine for most people in the morning, but make sure to avoid caffeine any time after midday to help get to sleep in the evening.
  • Exercise regularly, but not close to bed time – Regular exercise will help you sleep better, though make sure not to do it too close to bed time. This is because post-workout you will get a burst of energy which can keep you awake. If you are exercising later in the day, try doing so three to four hours before hitting the mattress.
  • Avoid big meals close to sleeping – Eating too close to bedtime can often make it difficult to relax, particularly if you are having large meals or heavy foods. Either try eating a few hours before going to bed or eat light snacks instead.

Effects of insufficient sleep

Whilst it may not seem like a major concern, regularly not having sufficient sleep can influence your body – both short and long term.

In the short-term, insufficient sleep can affect:

  • Judgement
  • Mood
  • Coordination
  • Concentration
  • Memory (reducing our ability to learn and retain information)
  • Reaction time (increasing the risk of accidents and injury).

Meanwhile, long-term effects and chronic sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems such as:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Early death.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is sleeping quality affected by the moon?

One of the age-old sleep questions is whether the moon, particularly a full moon can affect sleep quality. Many studies have looked into this, including a recent report in the Current Biology journal. The results of this study found the subjects slept for 20 minutes less when there was a full moon, as well as taking five minutes longer to fall asleep on the three or four nights surrounding a full moon.

  • What determines the quality of a sleep cycle?
    There are typically four measurements to what determines the quality of a sleep cycle. These include:
    Amount of time spent in bed
    2. Consistency of sleep
    3. Amount of time spent in deep sleep
    4. Amount of time where you are considered fully awake.
  • What does sleep quality percentage mean?
    Sleep quality percentage refers to the percentage of time you are in different stages of sleep, for example deep sleep, light sleep, awake etc. For example, during a night, a person may be awake 15 per cent of the time, be in a deep sleep 40 per cent of the night and be in a light sleep for the remaining 45 per cent of the time.
  • Can air quality affect sleep?
    Researchers have found air pollution can affect a person’s sleep, along with their risk of experiencing breathing problems. As air pollution can have a negative effect on health, it also increases the risk of poor sleep.
  • Can sleep quality cause headaches?

A common cause of headaches that is often unknown is sleep quality. The most important stage of sleep relating to headaches is REM sleep, which is the dreaming state of sleep. Headaches can typically be worse depending on the number of times a person experiences REM sleep in a night.

Do you get adequate sleep?