Now that we’re well and truly into the colder months of the year, full of big bowls of soup and cosy doonas, everyone around me seems to be obsessed with one thing: sleep. Are you getting enough? Is it the best quality? How can you get to sleep faster? The list goes on.
There’s an important reason for all of these concerns. Sleep has a huge impact on our overall health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to an increased chance of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke and poor mental health.
In addition, you’re also more likely to be in a bad mood and be less productive. According to science, it all comes down something called the sleep-wake system: the brain switches these two systems on and off by releasing chemical messages during the day (for alertness) and night (for sleep). If these systems are out of balance it may result in sleep difficulties.
Considering that an estimated up to one in three Australians has trouble with sleeping, it’s no wonder many of us are concerned with how much we are getting (and the quality of it).
With that in mind, we asked four women in our team here at Mamamia to share their personal tips and tricks they use to get to switch that “awake” button off before bed. Have you tried any of these?
Valentina Todoroska – Managing Editor
"Lately I've gotten massively into sleep and ensuring I get enough of it. It's mostly because the older I get, I seem to find getting to sleep harder and harder. My usual bed time is around 11pm but sometimes it can blow out to midnight if I feel I'm not tired enough to go to bed. Over the last few months I've found myself waking up several times during the night and struggling to get myself back to sleep again too.
"So I recently invested in a diffuser with a sleep essential oil blend of lavender, bergamot and chamomile. I fill it up before I go to bed and turn it on when I'm going to sleep. It fills my room with a relaxing scent and I find the sound the diffuser makes (a little bit like a waterfall) really soothing. I turn the built-in light to a warm amber colour which reminds me a bit of a salt lamp and it helps me to feel a bit more calm. For me, it's made a huge difference."
Belinda Jepsen - Senior Content Producer
"I've always been a night owl. In my early 20s I had no problem switching off the light at 12.30am or 1am and rising for work at 7am the next morning. Lately though, six hours sleep just isn't cutting it, and those bad habits are proving hard to shake. No matter how early I climb into bed I find myself tossing and turning for hours, marvelling - with more than a hint of jealousy - at my partner's ability to drift off within about 20 seconds of being horizontal.
"Meditation apps have proven helpful. I use a mix of guided body scans and 'sleep sounds'. And if I've exercised during the day, that also tends to tire me out a bit more. Thankfully, once I'm out to it I tend to stay that way until (and often several snooze buttons beyond) that morning alarm."
Nama Winston - Content Producer
"I find that the worst thing to do when I can't sleep is TRY to get to sleep. A school teacher told me years ago to get up and do something else - even if it's fold laundry - until you're tired enough to go to bed. It works, even on kids. Sometimes, when my son claims he can't sleep, I get him to give me a back massage - that's physically tiring for him, and it's non-stimulating enough that it breaks the anxious cycle of 'I can't sleep' thoughts.
"The other thing I do sometimes is eat a carb - a slice of toast or some crackers - because that also produces a sleep-inducing effect. I try very hard not to look at my phone because I find that just gets my mind racing with too much thinking."
Laura Brodnik - Entertainment Editor
"I always aim to be in bed by 10.30pm, but it's usually more like 11.30pm which is not ideal as it takes a long time for my mind to shut down enough for me to get to sleep. My biggest challenge when it comes to falling asleep is that my mind is always racing with plans and ideas for the next day, and I can't sleep while thinking about what I have to do and what I might forget.
"My trick to calm down is to keep my phone by my bed with an open email addressed to myself, and as I think of things to remember I add them to the email and send it to myself in the morning. That way I can fall asleep without worrying that things are going to fall out of my mind and be forgotten. I know I probably shouldn't keep my phone next to my bed, so I'm testing out leaving it in the living room overnight so I don't get tempted to look at it during the night. It's a work in progress!"
What if I still can't sleep?
If a diffuser, meditation app or cheeky carbs aren't helping you drift into the lad of nod, you may have symptoms of insomnia. Insomnia is a condition characterised by long periods of regular dissatisfaction or frustration with your lack of sleep, or the quality of that sleep.
If you have persistent troubles with getting to sleep or staying asleep, the best thing to do is talk to your GP. If you have insomnia, there is also helpful information at www.whyawake.com.au that explains the sleep-wake system, as well as offering practical tips and an opportunity to create a personalised insomnia discussion guide to take to your next GP appointment.
Sponsored by MSD.
What are your tips to get to sleep?
What’s keeping you awake? Your brain has two systems: one helps you sleep, one helps you stay awake.
Latest science suggests that in some cases insomnia may be caused by wake signals being too active, rather than your sleep system being too weak.
Stop struggling with insomnia, ask your doctor about ways to manage your insomnia.
So, what is keeping you awake? Learn more at whyawake.com.au, sponsored by MSD Australia