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The Road to Wellness: Sleep Right, Sleep Tight

Exercise and nutrition is all very good, but there’s no short-changing sleep when it comes to physical and mental health.

A good night’s sleep improves the immune system, supports healthy growth and development, and helps maintain a healthy balance of hormones. Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain, affect personal safety, lead to irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Serious sleep disorders have also been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.

A recent survey has revealed that more people are sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleep difficulties are common among 75 per cent of us at least a few nights per week. How do you get your share of zzzzs regularly?


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Be regular with bedtime. Wake up at the same time every day.

Bright lights at night — from hours spent in front of the TV or laptop — can suppress the body’s production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep. Avoid this by increasing light exposure during the day (spend more time outside, let more light into your home, remove your sunglasses for a while when in the sun).

Boost melatonin production at night by making your bedroom device-free. Turn off your TV and laptop, don’t read from a backlit device (such as Kindle or iPad) in bed, and change bright light bulbs.

Keep your room cool and comfortable, and make sure that the noise is down. If you can hear sounds of traffic in your room, drown them out with white noise.

Make sure your bed is comfortable – invest in a good mattress and pillows, and comfortable eiderdowns/quilts.

Reserve your bed for the purpose of sleeping. If you’re lying around all day, working or watching TV, your body won’t get the cue that it’s time to sleep at night.

Stay away from big meals at night, and cut down on caffeine and nicotine.

Sleep comes easier and deeper if you exercise regularly – as little as 20 to 35 minutes of daily activity helps.

Try deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or visualising a peaceful place to wind down and ready your busy mind for sleep.

If you wake up during the night and have trouble falling back asleep, try a relaxing technique (such as meditation) that can be done without getting out of bed.

If you’ve been awake for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and try a non-stimulating activity (reading a book). Avoid screens – the light they emit stimulates the brain.

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