A good night’s sleep, just like a healthy diet and exercise, is essential to your mental, emotional and physical health. It allows your brain to recharge and your body to rest.
The side-effects of insomnia can rudely intrude on your waking hours, affecting mood, concentration, memory and brain performance. Sleep disturbance can also cause depression, anxiety and distress.
Lack of sleep can be the stuff of nightmares, so here are five tips you can use to get a better night’s rest.
1. Make time for sleep
Many people become sleep-deprived because of their busy lives, so prioritise your sleep. Individuals vary in their sleep needs but most adults require between seven and nine hours a night to feel properly refreshed. Keep a consistent bedtime and wake schedule – this means avoiding the snooze button, even on weekends.
2. Control your exposure to light
Sunlight is a natural, positive source of energy during the day, but it can disrupt deep sleep. Try waking up with natural light or having breakfast by a sunny window. When it’s time to go to bed, use heavy curtains to block light and cover up electronics that emit light.
3. Get technology out of the bedroom
Computers and phones emit blue light that suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. Keeping your bedroom a notification-free zone can result in a more peaceful environment and a morning of mindfulness.
4. Have a wind-down routine
Partake in things that relax, rather than stimulate close to bedtime. For example, read a book by a soft light, take a hot bath, do some easy stretches or make simple preparations for the next day. Focus on reducing stress and stay out of your head by practicing breathing exercises.
5. Exercise, eat and drink early
Exercise regularly to help improve sleep, but finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Also, increase your water intake during the day so you can avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening.
If sleeplessness persists, talk to your GP about the possible causes and treatment options.
And if you know someone affected by cancer, be mindful that they may be experiencing difficulty sleeping. Up to 63 per cent of cancer survivors experience sleep disturbance and more than 30 per cent meet actual diagnostic criteria for insomnia - a rate two to three times higher than that of the general population.
All Queenslanders affected by cancer who suffer from sleep disturbance or clinical insomnia can call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for support.
More information about Cancer Council Queensland and healthy living is available at cancerqld.org.au.