How our actions during the day can help us get a better night’s sleep

We all know we need sleep – but why do we sleep and what can we do during the day to help us sleep at night?

The truth is we don’t know everything there is to know about sleep, but we do understand it is fundamentally important to our health and wellbeing. In this article, we will be discussing a number of health benefits for prioritising your sleep quality and small ways you can improve it.

The amount and the quality of sleep we get each night is different for everyone and has a profound impact on our learning and memory. Research has suggested that sleep plays a crucial role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential to how we focus our attention optimally, learn and retain new information. If we are sleep deprived or have had a restless night’s sleep, we may not be able to study as well as we could or retain new information for a project we may be working on.

Before we get into our tips, it is important to note that ongoing poor sleep quality can have a number of health effects. We recommend seeking further advice from your GP or a sleep specialist if you have chronic sleep deprivation.

A good sleep quality and quantity has a number of health benefits, such as:

  • Can reduce stress
  • Can improve memory and productivity
  • Can reduce blood pressure and enhance your heart health
  • Improves cognitive function and focus
  • Boosts your overall mood
  • Enhances recovery for muscle repair
  • Can enhance your body’s ability to fight infection through your immune system

If you could take a magic pill to reap the rewards of the above health benefits, you would definitely take it wouldn’t you?

So, what can you do to improve your sleep each night? The good news is that we’ve got a few ideas for you to try to improve your sleep!

  • Try to aim for 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night - any less than this and you may not reap the health benefits stated above
  • Reduce your screen time at least one hour before you would like to fall asleep – try listening to some soothing music or read a book (anything too upbeat may make it more difficult to get to sleep!)
  • Control your exposure to light – try and let as much natural light into your workspace during the day and get out in the sunshine during your lunchbreak or at the start or end of your day
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink before bed – alcohol has been shown to reduce REM (rapid eye movement) sleep
  • Try to avoid caffeine later in the day
  • Exercise during the day (catch up on our physical activity article for ideas on ways to keep active)
  • Avoid having a heavy meal within two hours of bedtime
  • Sleep in a dark, cool room ~21C
  • Try a Headspace or Smiling Mind ‘getting to sleep’ guided mindfulness session
  • If you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep, Headspace and Smiling Mind have ‘getting back to sleep’ guided mindfulness meditations to get you back to sleep
  • Speak to your GP about your sleeping patterns - they may refer you to a sleep specialist or clinic
  • Speak to your GP about a referral to a counsellor or psychologist if anxiety, depression or other mental health issues are affecting your sleep

La Trobe University have a number of resources available for students, staff and the wider community to assist them with their mental and physical health. For more information, please contact sport@latrobe.edu.au.

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