Mental Health tip – Getting a good night’s sleep

There are times in business when it’s all go, whether it’s on the farm during seeding and harvest, or meeting deadlines at work. It may mean working longer than normal hours, and possibly becoming sleep deprived.

A lack of sleep not only reduces our ability to perform work effectively, it also reduces our ability to work safely. Some have regarded sleep as a useless waste of time with no purpose – NOT TRUE.

Science and medicine are discovering more and more about the role of sleep and its influence on our wellbeing and health.

How much sleep do we really need?

  • Infants and toddlers – nine to 10 hours at night plus day naps;
  • School age including teenagers – do best with nine to 11 hours at night;
  • Most adults – seven to eight hours a night;
  • Older adults need the same as younger adults but sleep lighter and for shorter periods.

Some people just need fewer hours of six or less a night without ill effects. The need for less, or even more, sleep can run in families, suggesting a genetic basis, but it is incredibly rare.

What are the effects of lack of sleep? While we’re sleeping, our body is busy tending to our physical and mental health and getting us ready for another day.

Lack of sleep can lead to:

  • Drowsiness and irritability during the day;
  • Poor concentration hindering memory and our ability to pay attention;
  • Poor physical coordination increasing the risk of accidents;
  • High blood pressure which is one of the main risk factors for heart disease;
  • Depression.

Regularly sleeping less than five hours is associated with poor physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Sleep may be more difficult to come by as we age, and this can be traced to treatable health issues that cause interrupted sleep.

Some factors that could cause sleep difficulties include:

  • Sleep disorders like sleep-apnoea, restless leg/arm syndrome, leg cramps;
  • Pain from conditions like arthritis, heartburn, back pain, headaches;
  • A frequent need to urinate;
  • Illness – depression, coughing, shortness of breath;
  • Medications.

Some helpful tips for getting a good night’s sleep are:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, this synchronizes our body clock;
  • Aim for daily exercise, before evenings;
  • Relax before bed i.e. warm shower, reading and avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol;
  • Establish your pre-sleep routine (usually three things);
  • Use bedroom/bed only for sleeping, or intimacy – not as a lounge room for watching TV.

Generally, if we can’t sleep, we shouldn’t lie in bed. Leave the bedroom and do a quiet activity that doesn’t stimulate us.

To help maintain a healthy lifestyle we all need to contemplate what is an adequate amount of sleep for us personally and visit our GP for treatment if we are amassing a huge sleep debt.