Sleep: Fascinating Facts You Didn’t Know

It’s perhaps the one factor we all have in common. That is, we all need sleep.

From plants to animals and people, rest is a vital function necessary for cell renewal, repair, growth, and energy.

In the busy modern world, it’s not uncommon for many of us to complain about a lack of sleep. And the results show. The consequences of sleep disturbances cost Australian businesses an estimated $3-billion every year.

From the shift worker battling to sleep in the noise and light of day, to the stressed city worker relying on several cups of coffee to get by, and the tired-out new mum waking repeatedly to comfort a crying baby, there are many obstacles to a good night’s rest.

For those of us who work from home, there is a whole new set of challenges.

Professor David Hillman, Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, says remote workers will often find their flexible schedule takes a toll on their sleep.

“While freelancers and remote workers may enjoy greater freedom to work when they choose, on the flip side they might often find themselves working odd hours and trying to deal with an inconsistent work flow,” explains Professor Hillman.

“This around-the-clock availability coupled with the demands of clients really messes with your routine and eats into your sleep hours.”

The Sleep Health Foundation, Australia’s leading sleep advocate, urges work-from-home professionals not to vary their sleep and wake times too much throughout the week, and try to make time to wind down and relax before bed.

“We also recommend avoiding long daytime naps or late sleep-ins to compensate for late work nights,” Professor Hillman says. “It might seem like a good idea when you’re tired but long naps often just confuse your body clock further.”

July 4-10 is Sleep Awareness Week in Australia and to celebrate, we want to help you get a better night’s sleep. Check out these top tips from the Sleep Health Foundation.

Your Body Clock is Real!

Scientists have known for a long time that daily rhythms are driven by some kind of body clock. But they didn’t work out where it was until the middle of the 20th century when they removed a small piece of brain of a hamster called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). After this, the hamsters ran on their wheel at any and all times of the day and night.

You Need to Switch Off

Light is most important external signal for the biological clock. When the eye senses light, it sends signals to the SCN that it’s time to wake up. This includes computer screens, TVs and mobiles. Similarly when it’s dark, we’ll find ourselves getting sleepy.

You Can ‘Catch Up’ On Lost Sleep – But Don’t Rely On It

Sleeping in can help when you haven’t been getting enough rest and you need to pay back a ‘sleep debt’. But you can’t bank sleep in advance. Don’t rely on the catch up game though, building a strong sleeping pattern and sticking to it will help you feel better and perform at your peak.

Alcohol Won’t Help You Sleep

Although drinking alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it actually disrupts your sleep. In the second half of the night, sleep after drinking alcohol is associated with more frequent awakenings, night sweats, nightmares, headaches and is much less restful. You should avoid alcohol for at least 4 hours before bedtime. And remember binge drinking will affect your levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone, for up to a week.

Don’t Watch The Clock

We’ve all been there. You’ve got an important engagement the next day, but your mind is wired and you’re watching the night tick away before your eyes. This just makes you anxious about not being sleep, and anxiety makes it much harder to get to sleep. Set your alarm, have a back up alarm just incase, turn the clock around so you can’t see the time, and close those eyes!

 

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