World Sleep Day is on Friday 19 March. This annual event highlights the importance of sleep health and encourages us all to prioritise sleep to improve our overall health and well-being.
Sleep is one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle alongside healthy eating and regular exercise. Sleep disturbances may lead to poorer physical and mental health and are known to increase the risk of developing other chronic health issues such as heart disease, type 2diabetes, obesity, stroke, cancer and mental health conditions. Inadequate sleep is also associated with a reduced life-span.
Dr Moira Junge, a Health Psychologist and Board Member of the Sleep Heath Foundation (SHF) said, “Regular sleeping patterns are vitally important in ensuring an overall healthy lifestyle.
“Consistency is key, go to sleep at similar times most days to help maintain alertness during the daytime and assist you to sleep during the night. For those that struggle to have a regular sleeping pattern such as new parents, or shift workers that may alternate between day and night shifts, there are strategies available to help reduce the disturbances from these lifestyle factors.
“These include being aware of the importance of light and dark and their relationship to our body clock. We need dark conditions to optimise sleep and we want light conditions when wanting to optimise alertness. It is also really important to keep our stress, workloads and caffeine and alcohol levels to a minimum. Healthy sleep requires a prelude of a wind down period in which we prepare our brains and body for sleep,” Junge said.
Unforeseen circumstances can also affect established sleep routines and impact our health in ways we might not expect. With the widespread introduction of working from home due to COVID-19, many people experienced less light exposure on their daily commute, which in turn affects the body clock by not receiving the light/dark cues at consistent times. It is important to ensure you make an effort to get out in the daylight by factoring in outdoor activities to your daily routine.
The SHF has multiple resources such as fact sheets, and sleep tips available for individuals who are wanting to improve their sleep and health.