Getting a good-quality and quantity of sleep is vital to achieving and maintaining optimal mental and physical health. Despite this, as many as 40% of Australian adults experience sleep problems at any one time (www.workalert.org.au). Not getting enough sleep can impact many aspects of our life, in particular productivity and safety in the workplace.
It is well known that sleep is strongly impacted by stress and can lead to the common sleep disorder, insomnia. Insomnia is the persistent difficulty with falling asleep and staying asleep, with 1 in 3 people experiencing mild insomnia at some time (Sleep Health Foundation). Stress, worry or irritability experienced at work can lead to sleep disturbance. Over time, persistent sleep disturbance can make concentration and productivity at work even more difficult, leading to further stress.
Health Professionals around the world regularly share sleep hygiene strategies. These include habits and practices that are conductive to sleeping well on a regular basis such as monitoring caffeine intake, good temperature control, avoiding alcohol intake, improved level of darkness in the bedroom and other great tips to achieve a good night’s sleep. These strategies are good to know, however they often don’t always address the problem experienced by many. Trying to implement all of these ‘do this’ and ‘don’t do this’ strategies can also incidentally ramp up your hyperarousal at bedtime.
Good sleep health can be achieved through understanding the many things that can affect the quality of sleep and taking a problem-solving approach to changes you implement. The five key factors or principles to improve sleep considered by the Sleep Health Foundation are:
Look after you body rhythm and natural body clock
Minimise internal disruptions
Internal disruptions that create poor sleep are caused by your mind (mental) or your body (physical). Mental disruptions can be due to your mind being too active to fall asleep. Avoiding taking your worries to bed can be achieved through practicing good strategies such as jotting down your worries and options for managing these; mindfulness strategies; journaling or other emotional regulation techniques before bedtime. Physical disruptions can include breathing problems (such as snoring or sleep apnoea), physical problems interfering with sleep (pain, restless legs) or stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine or alcohol. If you think you have some breathing or physical problems speak to your GP about a referral to a sleep specialist. Further information on the impact of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol on sleep can be found on the Sleep Health Foundation Website.