Older Australians the deepest sleepers

A recent survey of the nation’s sleeping habits found older Australians were getting the best shut-eye, with 45 per cent of respondents aged 65-plus saying they had a good night’s sleep every night.

The national survey conducted by retailer Healthy Life found one in four (25 per cent) Australians couldn’t remember the last time they had a good night’s sleep.

Millennials (aged 25-34) rated highest (32 per cent), while the majority (39 per cent) of young adults (aged 18-24) said they averaged a good’s night rest just once a week.

It also found 28 per cent of women admitted they couldn’t recall the last time they had a good night’s rest, compared to 20 per cent of male respondents.

With more than six million Australians unable to recall their last night of solid sleep, Healthy Life has released a sleep guide to help more people master the art of sleeping and reap the benefits of a well-rested mind and body.

“We’re all so busy and distracted, we no longer prioritise sleep,” naturopath Rhian Phillips said.

“But it’s vital for both the body and mind to rest and rejuvenate. While the art of sleeping is becoming lost in our fast-paced world where technology addiction, lazy food habits and over-working is common place, the good news is that it is possible to retrain the body to sleep well.”

Here are Rhian’s top 10 tips on how to sleep better:

  1. Ride the wave of tiredness. The tiredness you feel at night is your circadian clock telling you it’s time for bed. This internal clock counts your sleep and wake cycles and because it’s your body’s natural rhythm, it’s good to be aware of its signals. Everyone is different, so get to know your circadian rhythm and move to the beat of your own sleep drum.  
  2. Adrenal fatigue. Being run down or exhausted seem may seem like good precursors for sleep, but people who suffer from adrenal fatigue are often unable to rest. Sometimes the issue can be a deficiency in B12, so taking a supplement may help. It might also be time to book into the doctor.
  3. Eat breakfast. A lot of people skip breakfast and don’t realise the effect it has on their body for the rest of the day, including sleep time. Eating a healthy breakfast allows the body’s natural energy cycles to work properly during the day and can help combat sugar and caffeine cravings, including the 3pm slump. A high-protein breakfast such as eggs, a protein shake, or a natural muesli with lots of nuts, will help blood sugar levels stay balanced and help you feel fuller for longer.
  4. Sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is about practising a good pre-bed routine. This can include eating dinner between 5pm and 7pm to allow your food plenty of time to digest, having a shower or bath about an hour before bed to help the body relax naturally, and most importantly, banishing bright screens for at least half an hour before shut eye. It’s all about encouraging your brain to produce the ‘sleep drug’, melatonin, which reacts to darkness.
  5. Chinese body clock. It’s not uncommon for people to wake up at the same time every night. In traditional Chinese medicine, it’s believed that human bodies process different things at different times. For example, that glass of wine might help put you to sleep but it could also wake you up between 1am and 3am when your liver kicks into gear.
  6. Optimum sleep time. While many people aim for seven or eight hours of sleep a night, quality is better than quantity. It might be better to sleep between 11pm and 3am when non-REM sleep is believed to be more abundant. Non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the deep, restorative slumber we all need. If everything is working well, your brain should flow in and out of 90-minute cycles of deep non-REM and REM sleep throughout the night.
  7. Midnight or mid-morning alertness. If you wake at midnight or 3am, it can be torturous trying to get back to sleep. Techniques that might help include taking a few deep breaths, practising meditation, or distracting yourself by getting a glass of water or going to the bathroom. If it’s a thought that has awoken you, try writing it down on a piece of paper or taking some deep breaths and releasing the thought on the out breaths.
  8. The science of sleep. Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated in the brain by a cocktail of at least eleven neurotransmitters and hormones, with the more common including dopamine, serotonin and melatonin. Melatonin is triggered by darkness and tells our body it’s time for sleep. Serotonin brings feelings of alertness, happiness and positivity, and kicks into gear to drive wakefulness during the day. So, keep screen time to a minimum before bedtime.
  9. Sleep supplements. Two key reasons prevent people sleeping well: they either struggle to fall asleep, or they wake periodically throughout the night. Lots of options will help to naturally relax your mind and body. A magnesium supplement can help, as can soothing herbal remedies such as passionflower, kava and valerian. These can be found in supplements and herbal teas. It’s about what works best for you.
  10. Seek help. Sleep is vital for health and wellbeing. If you’re having issues, ask a health practitioner for advice.

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