Sleep plays an essential role in maintaining health and wellbeing throughout the course of a person’s life. A lack of regular, high-quality sleep can have a significant impact on the body, affecting brain function and emotional wellbeing, and it has even been linked to increased risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Concerningly, recent research shows nearly two-thirds of Australians have difficulty falling asleep or experience disrupted sleep more than two nights a week. Among these respondents, a quarter reported experiencing sleep problems every night.
There are habits that may be impacting sleep quality, some of which you may not even be aware of. However, once identified, shifting these habits through simple lifestyle changes will ensure you get the high-quality sleep that is so crucial to your wellbeing.
Below, I share the five habits that may be wreaking havoc on your sleep and how to address them.
- The temperature of your room. Your body’s ability to thermoregulate decreases as you fall asleep, becoming inactive when you enter the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase, where dreams occur and your brain forms and retains your memories. However, if your sleeping environment is too hot or too cold, your body will need to continue trying to regulate its temperature, thereby reducing the amount of REM sleep and overall sleep quality. Studies show that REM sleep is particularly important for emotional processing and the formation of emotional memories, which play a huge role in maintaining positive mental health.
- Sleeping with pets. There are many psychological benefits associated with owning a pet, such as improved mood and decreased feelings of anxiety or loneliness, which in turn may indirectly benefit our sleep. However, if you’re sharing a bed with your pet and find yourself experiencing difficulty sleeping through the night – your pet may be the culprit. Studies have shown that dog movement in the bed tripled the likelihood of disturbing their owner’s sleep. Co-sleeping with pets also increases vulnerability to night-time disturbances, such as animal snoring, which can leave owners feeling fatigued the following day. A great alternative is bringing your pet’s bed into the bedroom, allowing them to sleep nearby, without disrupting your sleep.
- Falling asleep with the TV on. Many people use the TV as a type of white noise to help them drift off to sleep. However, falling asleep with the TV on can cause disruptions in your body’s circadian rhythm by impacting your ability to produce melatonin. Exposure to light at night suppresses melatonin production, which is the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. Other studies reveal a strong relationship between night-time electronic device usage and exposure and decreased sleep quality, along with increased symptoms of insomnia. Try listening to calming music instead. It can improve sleep by slowing your heart rate and breathing and lowering your blood pressure which, in turn, can also lower feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Long naps. Taking an afternoon nap is a great way to re-energise for the remainder of the day. In fact, taking a brief nap during the day can significantly enhance learning, memory, and even improve performance in athletes. However, nap too long and you can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it difficult for you to fall asleep at night. Aim to keep naps to around 20 minutes and preferably before 3pm to avoid any impact on your sleep.
- Too much time indoors. With ongoing restrictions and lockdowns, you’re likely spending the majority of your time indoors. Depending on where you live, work or go to school, this can heavily impact your exposure to light. For example, if you live in an apartment with limited natural light, you may find yourself experiencing poorer sleep. This is due to the fact that light is fundamental in your body’s melatonin production, which impacts your sleep and wake cycles. Ensure you are getting adequate exposure to natural light during the day, by spending time outdoors, even if it’s for a brief walk around the block or to exercise. Ultimately, this exposure will help regulate your natural body clock and significantly improve your mood. Try and step outside at least once a day and you may find your sleep quality improve
About Davie Fogarty
Davie Fogarty is an entrepreneur and founder of Calming Blankets – one of Australia’s highest-quality, science-driven weighted blankets. Davie established the brand in 2017, after discovering the benefits of a simple, weighted blanket on his sleep and health. Since then, Davie has grown the company into one of the country’s fastest-growing brands. www.calmingblankets.com.au