Sleep – are you getting enough?

Many of us today are not getting enough sleep. Up to 80% of Australians have experienced insomnia, either chronically or occasionally.

Are you getting quality sleep or do you suffer from sleep problems?

Are you getting enough quality sleep?

Sleep disorders are a large and under-recognised problem in Australia.

  • Over 1.2 million Australians (6% of the population) experience sleep disorders
  • These disorders contribute to a range of other health and social problems, with substantial health and economic impacts – accidents and injuries, other chronic illnesses, production and consumption losses, and second generation effects, particularly from childhood sleep disorders.
  • This costs on average $10.3 billion a year (based on a 2004 study).

Sleep disorders underlie:

  • 9.1% of work-related injuries
  • 8.3% of depression
  • 7.6% of non work-related motor vehicle accidents
  • 2.9% of diabetes
  • 0.9% of nephritis and nephrosis (kidney diseases)
  • 0.6% of cardiovascular disease

The health costs of other health problems caused by sleep disorders are $429 million:

  • 49% of these ($181m) are due to work-related injuries deriving from sleep disorders, and 5% from motor vehicle accidents
  • 26% of the additional health costs ($97m) are due to depression
  • 10% ($37m) derives from associated strokes, coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular disease and a further 8% ($28m) is from diabetes
  • Inpatient costs are 35% of the total ($130m), outpatient costs 18% ($67m) and pharmaceuticals 16% ($59m)

The total financial costs of sleep disorders ($6.2bn) accounted for 0.8% of GDP in 2004, which meant $310 per Australian, and $5,175 per person with a sleep disorder .

If sleep disorders are treated as a risk factor for other disease, they rank in the top ten risk factors in Australia. Sleep disorders causes more ill health than well known risks to health such as alcohol or unsafe sex.

Statistics and findings summarised from the Executive Summary of
Report by Access Economics Pty Ltd for Sleep Health Australia, October 2004

What does this actually mean for you?

Obviously, you feel tired. You are doing everything through a brain fog, or a headache caused by sleep deprivation. You are probably more bad-tempered or snappy than usual.

In other words, you are not functioning nearly as well as you could be. Your level of debilitation right at this minute could have as serious an effect as being over the driving alcohol limit!

And in the longer term, it could be sending your blood pressure up, increasing your risk of depression or diabetes, or playing havoc with your immune system. It can even put weight on, because you are likely to eat at odd hours, but it can also throw out your normal eating patterns too.

Worst of all, you’ve probably noticed that sleeping badly or having episodes of insomnia is often not a one-night phenomenon. It can start to become a habit, because you start to get into an insomnia routine.

General rules for a good night’s sleep:

  1. arrange a completely darkened room and regulate the temperature (the ideal is feeling cool)
  2. have a decent bed and have the sheets free of creases (In other words, make the bed, you lazy creature!)
  3. avoid eating larger meals close to bedtime
  4. avoid alcohol close to bedtime, especially in excess, as this is likely to disturb sleep
  5. set up a ‘going to bed’ routine that is predictable and prepares your body for shutting down
  6. avoid mental over-stimulation before bed.
  7. doing some exercise during the day can make a difference to your sleep quality
How to get a goodn night's sleep and avoid sleeping problems

Sleep like a baby!

And then, it also depends on what your life situation is.

If you’re doing shift work, sleep disturbance may be an everyday part of your life. The first solution is to minimise the chances of experiencing problems. If you’re trying to sleep by day, you need to ensure your sleep is not disturbed by family, phone or other factors, and perhaps invest in a good sleep mask and ear plugs or other sound dampener. If these things work for you, great.

If they don’t, you have to look at Solution No 2. Get off shift work! If necessary, by finding another job. It’s harsh, and perhaps it isn’t possible right now, but the statistics on long term shift work and health indicate an increased risk of about 50% again on top of what day workers face on most health issues.

And if you work normal hours and it’s occasional insomnia? The rule of thumb is usually to give yourself about 15 minutes to fall asleep naturally. If you’re lying there and your brain is racing half an hour after going to bed, don’t stay there tossing and turning and looking at the alarm clock with increasing horror! Get up, leave the bedroom and go and do something diverting but as mind-numbing as possible until you start to feel tired. Then go back to bed and give it about 15 minutes once again.

Many experts tell you to avoid watching TV or putting on bright lights. I don’t think it’s a good idea to fire up your computer and start your brain working actively on e-mails or Facebook or finishing those plans for the nuclear fusion reactor. But have you watched late night TV? It’s usually so mind-numbingly boring, that you will hopefully want to drop off again soon.

Same rules go for if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.

Try to avoid sleeping tablets – they’re not good to be on for any great length of time as you can quickly become dependent. Natural remedies such as valerian, hops and passionflower work quite well, and a little lavender sprayed on the pillow or around the room can relax you. And then, we can add warm milk, and bananas, and ….

If you’d like to leave your tip or favourite method for getting through sleep difficulties, just click HERE.