Sleep expert reveals her 5 top tips to improve sleep
Australians are constantly searching for ways to get better sleep, whether it’s trying viral TikTok trends, meditation, or even medication.
Bedding retailer Sheridan commissioned a Deep Sleep white paper this year, finding that only 33% of Australians surveyed believe they are getting the required amount of sleep. Yahoo Lifestyle spoke to sleep psychologist Rosemary Clancy from the Sydney Sleep Centre to get her top tips on how to improve our sleep.
1. Using the sun
Rosemary explains that the sun is the most ‘important calibrator’ of our sleeping and waking schedules. When our body gets a glimpse of the sun, it suppresses the sleep hormone Melatonin and gives us a boost of cortisol to kickstart our day.
For those on shift work or on early schedules during winter, the psychologist mentions you could try a special set of glasses or a sun lamp. Re-Timer glasses and sun lamps use light therapy to help regulate your sleep schedule and dampen your Melatonin production.
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2. Keep daytime naps to 30 minutes or less
The sleep expert believes all daytime naps should be avoided, or at least kept under 30 minutes.
“[If] you’re doing a little power nap, you’re not going into deep sleep and borrowing your deep sleep from the night,” she says.
Deep sleep is crucial for our human growth hormone production, as well as our immune function.
“It’s very important for our physical recovery, tissue and cell repair. It’s essential for us,” Rosemary highlights.
3. No daytime activities when you’re in bed
It’s common for people these days to be scrolling on electronic devices before sleeping, but the psychologist stresses the importance of keeping ‘daytime’ activities away from the bed.
“We want to associate your bed with sleep and sleepiness, not with daytime activities that are going to keep you emotionally invested, like being on a device and doing lots of complex prefrontal cortex or executive functioning activities,” she adds.
4. There is no ‘perfect’ sleeping environment
She admits that while there’s good science behind sleep hygiene tips - mainly having a cool, dark and quiet sleeping environment, this can often trip people up.
“[If] you try and do it too perfectly, you can actually create performance anxiety about sleep,” she says.
She explains that you can’t cling to the idea of a ‘perfect’ sleep environment or see it as being a ‘guarantee of good sleep’. Instead, people should keep their expectations realistic and flexible.
5. Get out of bed when you can’t sleep
If you find that you struggle to fall asleep, Rosemary recommends getting out of bed.
“We need to get out of bed when we’re unable to resume sleep in 20 minutes, or if our emotion is over 60%, whether that be fear, frustration, anger or even longing for sleep,” she explains.
Associating your bed with heightened emotions or lack of sleep can make it even harder for you to sleep well in the future. Rosemary mentions that 'trying too hard' is one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to sleep, with the psychologist noting that it's easy for people to get 'wound up in knots'.
The sleep psychologist also touched on how people self-medicate with the belief that they can improve their sleep quality this way.
“They end up looking for the brand name sedatives that actually worsen sleep. It actually creates a sleeping pill habit that worsens deep sleep over time,” she says.
What most people don’t know is that sedation only mimics deep sleep, and can often lead to suppressed dream sleep. Sedation is not the same as sleep and should be avoided until all other avenues have been tried, such as the tips mentioned above.
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