"Getting the right amount of sleep enhances the quality of every minute we spend with our eyes open."
It’s probably no surprise to hear that sleep is now recognised as one of the most fundamental requirements for healthy and productive living.
When co-founder and editor of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington writes a deeply personal, scientifically rigorous, and bestselling exposé on how our dismissal of sleep as time wasted undermines our work and personal lives, people take notice—and it seems like sleep has been on everybody’s minds (consciously or subconsciously), ever since The Sleep Revolution hit the shelves in 2016.
But if you’ve yet to realise how sleep—the deeply restful, rejuvenating, and life-affirming kind of sleep we all crave—is under attack by a cultural delusion that we can and must always get more done, here’s what the latest research says:
40% of Australians still struggle to sleep 7-9 hours a night (that’s over 10 million)
59.4% have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking too early and not getting back to sleep at least 3-4 times per week
Only 20% of Australians report sleeping uninterrupted Insomnia has increased to 30-80%.
To say sleep is in crisis is an understatement. Many (including Huffington) blame our collective belief that ‘you snooze, you lose’ and that ‘time is money.’ Myths like “All great leaders survive on small amount of sleep” and “Those who get a full night of sleep are lazy” (perhaps first perpetuated by Napoleon Bonaparte, who famously said: “Six hours' sleep for a man, seven for a woman, and eight for a fool”), contribute to a culture that requires more and more from employees, which leads to rising stress levels, longer working hours, and reduced sleep.
But it’s increasingly becoming clear that less is never more when it comes to sleep. Not getting a regular 7-9 hours sleep per night is hurting us personally, financially health-wise and career-wise. Here’s the stats:
Sleepless Australians are almost 80% less productive at work.
A whopping 20% of Australians fell asleep behind the wheel in 2021. Once a month, 29% of people drive in an exhausted state and over 50% of exhaustion-related accidents occur within 25km of leaving point.
Heart disease and diabetes kill 40% of sleep-deprived Australians. Deloitte evaluated that between 2016-17, 3,017 Australians passed away because of sleeplessness, with heart conditions causing 77% of these deaths.
Australians spend $66.3 billion per year on health and overheads because of sleep distress.
The total annual financial cost of insufficient sleep includes a productivity loss of $17.9 billion, $1.8 billion for healthcare costs, $0.6 billion for sleeplessness information, and $5.9 billion for other charges, including encumbrance costs.
Poor sleep has led to $40.1 billion in social welfare expenditure.
Conversely, getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night can dramatically increase your productivity and accuracy. Here’s some positive statistics from a 2018 study to prove it: people who get 7 – 8 hours sleep are 19% more productive than those who get only 5 – 6 hours per night AND, a whopping 29% more productive than those who get less than 5 hours of sleep.
As Huffington writes in The Sleep Revolution:
“Sleep is a time of intense neurological activity—a rich time of renewal, memory consolidation, brain and neurochemical cleansing, and cognitive maintenance. Properly appraised, our sleeping time is as valuable a commodity as the time we are awake. In fact, getting the right amount of sleep enhances the quality of every minute we spend with our eyes open.”
Have you ever woken from a restless sleep feeling hung over, even when you haven’t touched a drop of alcohol? One of the most important functions of sleep is to cleanse the brain of toxins, so that our thought patterns are more cohesive and sharp. This cleansing has been found to be performed mostly during the deep REM sleep cycle. When this part of our sleep pattern is disrupted, we can wake with a fogginess and heaviness caused by a build up of these toxins. Conversely, getting the right amount of sleep each night can massively improve focus and productivity.
The good news is that we all have the power to improve this vital, highly under-rated (and seemingly passive) daily activity. We’ve created a list of 8 things you can do to get your sleep routines back on track.
8 easy ways to encourage better sleep patterns:
So how do you get more sleep? The key is to create routines and rituals that will dramatically improve the quality and duration of your sleep. Here are our top tips:
1. Switch off from screens early (ideally as the sun sets).
2. Set restrictions around the hours you (and the family) can use devices. Consider having nights/days/weekends completely disconnected from all devices.
3. Reduce stimulants and depressants, especially after lunch (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol).
4. Set sleep routines. Set regular times to go to bed and wake up. Wherever possible, follow the natural circadian rhythms of sunrise and sunset to follow your natural body clock.
5. Create rituals. Develop a restful ritual around bedtime: have a hot bath, change into your PJs, burn a favourite scented candle. When you wake, choose a meditation rather than reaching for your iPhone.
6. Keep your bedroom temperature to an optimal 16-19 degrees and ensure there is adequate air flow.
7. To help keep your body temperature even, switch to using natural fibres on your bed. Cotton and linen breathe more, helping to moderate body temperature. Choose the right doona/duvet/blanket to suit the season.
8. Remove your smart phone from the bedroom. Get an old fashioned alarm clock and make it difficult to scroll on social media after you’ve gone to bed.
Meditation is an excellent way to get many of the same benefits of sleep—it helps to calm the central nervous system and re-energizes you mentally and physically. So, if you can’t justify some shut-eye, take a quick break and meditate—your health, happiness and productivity will thank you for it.
We hope to have increased your awareness of the importance of sleep and have planted the seed for the pursuit of good sleep habits. To extend the nurturing of your health, you might find our posts on gut health to be informative and inspiring.
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Stay well, and sleep well!