Tiana Gullotta


Trouble sleeping? Ultimate guide to a good night’s rest

Trouble sleeping? Ultimate guide to a good night’s rest

Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) specialises in brain and nervous system research and has dedicated its resources to find the answer to a better quality of sleep. It exposes the bad habits and factors that influence how you sleep and the quality of rest you get each night, as well as providing solutions to benefit your quality of sleep.

The bad habits of drinking, smoking, presence of pets in the bed, eating rich foods less than two hours before bed and a lack of exercise in your daily routine have all been revealed to impact sleep patterns.

The researchers have also confirmed what we have all heard before – the light from your phone or tablet keeps your brain stimulated, making it harder to sleep.

Hanna Hensen, a sleep scientist from NeuRA, reveals that 40 per cent of Australians aren’t getting an adequate amount of sleep, which she admits affects an individual’s mental wellbeing.

“Disrupted or inadequate sleep can negatively impact every organ in your body and is associated with anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders,” Dr Hensen said.

Researchers have discovered that a lack of sleep influences our ability and quality of work as we become less creative and efficient, we become less motivated due to our fatigue, as well as limiting our judgement and decision making.

Hensen reveals who is most at risk of these factors within the work environment.

“If you are working with large figures, writing an article, handling transactions or controlling machinery, inadequate sleep will adversely affect your success and accuracy at work,” the doctor revealed.

Hensen also elaborated on the importance of maintaining mental wellbeing and identified two major categories of sleep – quiet sleep and rapid eye movement (REM).

Every 90 minutes a normal sleeper cycles between two important categories of sleep – quiet sleep –– where the deepness of the sleep gradually increases. As we fall into our deeper sleep, we experience a drop in our body temperature, the relaxation of muscles and the decreasing rate of heart rate and breathing.

Dr Hensen shared the benefits of quiet sleep, stating, “The deepest stage of quiet sleep – called slow wave sleep – is the constructive phase of sleep, repairing damaged tissues, stimulating growth and development, and boosting the immune system.”

The second major category of sleep is REM, also known as dream sleep. Surprisingly, this quality of sleep plays an important role in learning and memory, which impacts emotional health.

“By getting insufficient sleep or sleeping poorly, we are not giving the brain and the body space to recover from the previous day,” Dr Hensen said. “This causes us to be less sociable, more emotionally unstable and less resilient the following day.”

Still not convinced your quality of sleep is important? Maybe these statistics will change your mind.

  • 18 hours without sleep is equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.08, while 24 hours with no sleep is the same as a blood alcohol level of 0.12.
  • Poor sleep makes you eight times more likely to have a car accident.
  • Lack of sleep increases the risk of anxiety and depression.
  • Men who get 5 hours of sleep for one week have significantly lower levels of testosterone mirroring someone 10 years older than what they are.
Convinced now? Here’s the advice Dr Hensen suggested in order to get a good sleep.

Hensen encourages routine and advises to go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. To help get relaxed and ready for bed, dim bright lights or turn on soft lamps within two hours of going to sleep.

Sadly, Hensen discourages naps that exceed 20-30 minutes, as well as recommending people turn off their technological devices and storing them away from their sleeping space.

That’s right. No phone, tablet or laptop in your bedroom. If that demand is simply impossible, put your phone on night mode or put a blue light filter on your screen.

Caffeine, sugar or cigarettes four hours before bed can stimulate the mind and keep you awake, Hensen suggests avoiding these for a better night’s sleep, as well as advising against lounging around in your bed for more than 30 minutes.

We know the covers are irresistible, but Dr Hensen suggests moving to a chair to read a book or listen to soft music elsewhere before returning to bed to sleep once you’re tired.

Replace music with soft and soothing sounds instead of loud stimulating music. Also avoid eating heavy foods such as rich, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits or carbonated drinks as they can trigger indigestion and heartburn that disrupts sleep.

Happy sleeping!