Twelve tips for Healthy Sleep

Dr. Ben Coupe
Sleep

May 24, 2020




I’ve just finished reading the excellent book ‘Why We Sleep’ by Mathew Walker. Professor Walker is one of the foremost experts in the world of sleep and explores 20 years of cutting-edge research to solve the mystery of why sleep matters. I’ll be honest, the book is very dense and most of it will be too much for anyone that doesn’t have an interest in the subject, despite that fact that its well written.

In saying that he certainly makes a case for just how important sleep is. He argues that sleep is one of the most important aspects of our life, health and longevity and yet it is increasingly neglected in twenty-first-century society, with devastating consequences. Every major disease in the developed world – Alzheimer’s, cancer, obesity, diabetes – has strong causal links to deficient sleep.

Despite traditionally being a good sleeper myself, reading this book has encouraged me to make changes to improve my sleep even further. For instance, I no longer drink coffee after 12pm and have set a cooler temperature at night and as a result I’ve improved my sleep quality.

To help improve your sleep, Professor Walker has developed 12 tips for healthy sleep. They are as follows;

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. Set an alarm for bedtime as well rather than just morning. This is the most important piece of advice.
  2. Exercise, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least 30 mins most days but not later 2-3 hours before your bedtime.
  3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Coffee, cola’s and chocolate all contain caffeine and can take 8 hours to wear off fully. Therefore, a coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard to fall asleep at night. Nicotine is a stimulate causing smokers to sleep only very lightly.
  4. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Heavy drinking robs you of REM sleep.
  5. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. It can cause indigestion impacting sleep. Too much liquid results in waking to use the toilet.
  6. If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. If insomnia is an issue speak to your doctor and see if you can take your medicines at different times of day.
  7. Don’t take naps after 3pm. Naps can help make up for lost sleep, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  8. Relax before bed. Don’t over schedule your evening. Music or reading before bed should be part of your routine.
  9. Take a hot bath before bed. It’s the cooling effect on your body after you get out of the bath that helps sleep.
  10. Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, gadget free bedroom. Block out or remove lights, TV’s and phones can be a distraction, watching the clock can induce anxiety for insomniacs so take it out of view. The ideal room temperature is 18.3 degrees Celsius. Surprisingly cool right?
  11. Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to having the right sleeping patterns. Try to get at least 30 mins of sunlight exposure per day. If possible, wake up with the sun or use very bright light in the morning. If sleep is an issue for you, make it a priority to get an hour’s sun in the morning and turn down the lights at night.
  12. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you are still awake after 20 mins of being in bed and or are anxious, get up and try to do something relaxing. The anxiety of not being able to fall asleep can make it harder to fall asleep.

In step 10, in the book, he does mention having a good quality pillow and mattress, but brushes over that point a little too much for my liking.

I’ll take it upon myself to fill in the blanks.

I have personally observed (and witnessed through countless clients) that the right pillow and mattress are invaluable to the quality of your sleep.

To sum it up, you need a mattress that is firm, and a pillow that is set to the exact right height for your body.

We recommend the ABCA mattress. It was designed simply because there was no mattress on the market that was firm enough that we could recommend.

‘But, I don’t like a firm mattress’ I hear you say.

We believe the reason why some people don’t like a firm mattress is because they don’t appreciate how the pillow relates directly to the mattress.

Getting the exact right pillow height (and having a pillow that allows you to maintain that through the night) is the key to not feeling uncomfortable on a firm mattress. We recommend the ABCA pillow to make this possible. Check out our videos on pillow set up originally posted in April 2018, they explain how to manage this and give options if you don’t have the pillow.

Getting both mattress and pillow right are integral to good sleep. Waking up feeling refreshed (not tired) and having a loose and light body (not stiff and/or sore) are some of the indicators that you’re doing this well.

The ABCA mattress and pillow are available to test and try in our office and can be ordered through us or via https://www.abcaustralasia.org.au/postural-support-products/

Dr Ben Coupe

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