It is important to look after our mental and physical wellbeing, especially in times of stress and anxiety. It is easy to fall into undesirable sleeping patterns, which can have a significant impact on your overall health. Sleep plays a vital role in ensuring we are functioning well and staying healthy.
At our Thursday Employee Forum, Dr Natalie Grima spoke about the importance of sleep hygiene and provided suggestions on how to develop good sleeping habits. Dr Grima is a clinical neuropsychologist with expertise in the area of sleep.
Sleep is controlled by different factors in your life such as making sure you prioritize and regularize sleep, timed light exposure, exercise, meal time, and social interaction. Generally, the first line of treatment in addressing sleeping difficulties is sleep hygiene.
“Sleep hygiene is a set of tools designed to tidy up and optimise sleep,” Dr Grima explained. She also mentioned that the development of healthy sleeping habits through sleep hygiene can help minimise the impact of social isolation during this time. Dr Grima described the practical ways sleep hygiene can be implemented in our day-to-day lives.
You can set boundaries including avoiding screen time before bed, taking time to unwind before sleeping and making sure you use your bed for sleeping only. Using your bed for other activities can trick your brain into thinking it is a place for waking activities, rather than sleep.
Drinking and eating can also have an impact on sleeping habits. While alcohol may help initiate sleep, it affects your body’s ability to enter a REM sleep cycle. Additionally, Dr Grima recommended not having heavy meals before bedtime and avoiding caffeine after 1pm.
Our daily activities also have the ability impact our sleep routine. It is important to have an element of social interaction in your day, even if it is a quick ‘hello’ to family or friends, and to ensure you keep daytime activities separate from night activities. Exercising at the same time and avoiding vigorous exercise two hours before bedtime can also help. She encouraged individuals to experiment with exercising at different times of the day, as some people find morning exercise beneficial, whereas others benefit from evening exercise.
If you are having trouble with your sleep, Dr Grima outlined six strategies which can help bring structure to your sleep routine:
- Review and amend your sleep hygiene habits
- Limit exposure to media
- Relax your body to quiet your mind
- Get up at the same time, regardless of how much sleep you had
- If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, take a break and get out of bed. Return to bed when you feel sleepy
- Seek professional help.
Monash Health employees who wish to seek help can use services such as Call a Psychologist and EAP.
You can find Dr Grima’s presentation here and further resources on the Health and Wellbeing page of the Monash Health COVID-19 website. You can also watch past presentations here. Tune into our Thursday Employee Forums for more health and wellbeing content.