Celebrating World Sleep Day

Friday 19th March is WORLD SLEEP DAY.

At Harvey Norman, we’re celebrating World Sleep Day to help raise awareness about the importance of sleep. As an annual international event organised by the World Sleep Society, World Sleep Day aims to raise societal awareness of various issues relating to sleep and provide better prevention and management of these issues.

In recognition of World Sleep Day, we sat down for a Q&A to discuss the importance of sleep with
Dr. Alex Bartle, founder of the Sleep Well Clinic and registered GP, specialising in sleep.

Q. How important is sleep for our day to day function?

A. There are three pillars to health – Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep. Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise. Lack of sleep affects all parts of our body from emotions, hormones, and physical wellness. With enough sleep, your body will function better and there’s also evidence that athletes will perform better with a good night’s sleep.

Q. What are the consequences of insufficient sleep?

A. If you don’t get enough sleep you get tired which causes lack of motivation, and it also alters hormones in your brain which make you hungry causing you to eat more, and exercise less which can result in weight gain. Insufficient sleep can affect our health. Things like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stress, depression, obesity and cancer are all associated with lack of sleep. Our hormones are also affected by lack of sleep, especially our mood, and people tend to get very irritable and grumpy.

Q. Can our lifestyle be affecting our sleep?

A. Yes definitely. Lack of exercise can be affecting our sleep, it’s important to exercise – especially outdoors. You will be exposed to more light while exercising outdoors which is great for your health by increasing your level of Serotonin. Low levels of serotonin can affect our mood, function, appetite, sleep, memory and behaviour so the more time you spend outside, the better you will feel. Alcohol can also affect the quality of sleep. Generally you will go to sleep quicker with alcohol, but you will tend to wake up more frequently throughout the night which will reduce the quality of your sleep.

 Q. How many hours sleep should we be getting each night?

A. For adults we’ve always promoted 8 hours sleep each night which is ideal, but most adults cope well with 7 hours sleep.

Babies, children and teens need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development. The amount of sleep depends on their age.

Little babies need around 16-18 hours’ sleep every night, where infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers need around 12-15 hours’ sleep each night. Five, six and seven year olds need roughly 12 hours’ sleep, and a ten year old needs around 10 hours’ sleep every night. Teenagers need about 8.5-9 hours’ sleep.

Q. Can we sleep too much?

A. Generally it’s not possible to sleep too much because your body usually wakes up once it’s had enough sleep. If you are sleeping for 8-10 hours every night, and waking up feeling tired, it could be something to do with the quality of your sleep.

Q. What are the common signs of a sleeping disorder?

A. Sleeping disorders are more common than some people realise, and most sleeping disorders are either preventable or treatable. Snoring is a big sign that you may have a sleeping disorder, such as sleep apnoea. A sleeping disorder affects your ability to function well during the day, occasional lack of sleep is a common problem for many of us, but if it happens on a regular basis it will interfere with your daily life, and you may be suffering from insomnia. It’s important to understand that changes can be made to combat sleeping disorders – generally most therapies are non-drug related, but some will occasionally require medication.

Q. What are the main factors that contribute to a sleeping disorder?

A. Sleep problems can be caused by several factors such as stress, isolation, depression, anxiety and alcohol use.

Q. What is the most common sleeping disorder in New Zealand?

A. Insomnia would be the number one sleeping disorder in New Zealand. However, we see patients with all types of sleep issues. These range from sleep apnoea through to children who can’t sleep, circadian rhythm problems which relate to shift work management, jet lag, and all the parasomnias which include sleep walking, night terrors and restless leg syndrome.

Q. We are all after a good night’s sleep. What are some tips for the average New Zealander to try and improve their sleep?

  • Going to sleep when you’re actually sleepy is ideal. A mistake some people make is going to sleep earlier to try get a good night’s sleep, but you may struggle to sleep if you’re not tired.
  • Keep the room dark at night and avoid electronic media and screens for at least an hour before bed if you are having difficulty with sleep.
  • Learning some meditation techniques can be very useful to relax before bed.
  • Physical activity can also help you to relax, so a walk in the evenings after work or a workout at the gym, but not too late as this will then interfere with sleep.
  • Journaling is also great to clear your mind. Spending some time in the evening writing your thoughts down is a great way to get things off your mind so you don’t worry about it while trying to sleep.
  • Avoid clock watching. If you wake up in the night, try to avoid looking at the time. Knowing the time can have an emotional impact, you may worry about how much time you have left to sleep so having the time out of sight is ideal.
  • Make sure you don’t have too much alcohol at night. A little alcohol is fine, but too much can affect your sleep.
  • Caffeine remains in the body for a long time, and therefore it should be avoided in the afternoon if you are having problems with getting to sleep. Although caffeine is associated with coffee, it occurs in most energy drinks, tea and all forms of chocolate.

 Q. Are there myths when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep?

A. Yes there are a lot of myths. One that comes to mind first is “An hour before midnight is better than an hour after midnight”.

Another myth is that people can get by long-term with 4 or 5 hours sleep – they think they can, but they don’t. Adults need at least 7 hours’ sleep on a regular basis.

Fresh air is also an interesting one, it’s the light that’s good for you, not the fresh air. Air remains much the same – in New Zealand.

Q. In your opinion can your bed, pillow or environment you sleep in contribute to a good (or bad) night’s sleep?

A. Yes of course it can. A good sleeper will pretty much sleep anywhere, but having a comfortable sleeping environment helps.

Generally we will promote a bigger bed than a smaller bed, particularly for couples so you have your own sleeping space, then you can toss and turn without bumping into your partner.

A good pillow is also important, but what pillow you need depends on what position you sleep in.

There are various pillow styles for different sleepers. We also sweat a lot in our sleep so having cotton or linen bed linen is ideal as it absorbs moisture. A mattress protector will help keep your mattress hygienically fresh and prolong the mattress life, as well as help to maintain the correct climate for sleeping.

And if you have allergies, look out for bed linen suitable for allergy sufferers and be sure to avoid pets in your bed!

You also need to keep your environment cool, so between 16-18 degrees is ideal. Complete darkness is best for a good night’s sleep. For children, if they’re worried about the dark, we often say it can be light enough so that you can see where you are, but not light enough to do anything with – such as read a book. Sudden, sharp noise may also wake you, so it’s ideal to have the room quiet. But if you’re bothered about little creaks in the night, then having some background noise such as white noise or the sound of a fan going all night can help.

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Thanks to Dr. Alex Bartle for participating in our Q&A for World Sleep Day. Try some of his tips to help you achieve a better night’s sleep, or to find out more about the Sleep Well Clinic visit www.sleepwellclinic.co.nz.

Find all you need for your sleeping environment at your local Harvey Norman store and sleep better today.

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