Dreaming of A Good Sleep?

We say ‘good night’ all the time, as we depart an evening gathering, when we tuck the kids in to bed, to our loved one as we go to sleep. But how many of us are really having a good night? Ask yourself, do you get a fulfilling quality night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and energised, or does it take a while to get to sleep, do you wake frequently, does your mind over-process, and leave you feeling exhausted?

There’s a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health and living with a mental health challenge or illness can affect how well you sleep.

Sleep is as essential as food (maybe more) however we seem more willing to tolerate night after night of poor sleep, or in extreme cases, no sleep.

So what happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

Sleep deprivation can contribute to a wide range of medical conditions, memory loss, hypertension, and heart disease, and in more extreme cases blackouts or hallucinations.

  • Within 24 hours of staying awake, your brain will behave as if you had a about 4 beers and your memory, ability to concentrate, hand to eye coordination, attention, and hearing will all be impaired.
  • Within 36 hours you increase your chances of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and hormonal imbalances.
  • Within 48 hours you will be susceptible to microsleep, which means you have involuntary mini blackouts that can last between 2 and 30 seconds.
  • And at 72 hours, you are at high risk of full-on hallucinations. A simple conversation will be beyond you.

While these lengths of time with no sleep are extreme, it certainly demonstrates how quickly our physiological state deteriorates, and with this, our stress levels increase, and our mental and physical health becomes severely compromised.

Doctors, sleep foundations, and government health organizations say that to stay healthy and perform at their peak, adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Ok, sounds good, but just how do we achieve this?

Three key elements

To achieve a good night’s sleep, there are three key ingredients you need to sort:


Sudden noises can disrupt you from sleep, a siren, a door slamming in the wind or the neighbour’s dog barking. But consistent “white noise” can block distractions. Try having a fan or air-con unit going, or listen to one of many available sound tracks with low even sounds like rain or waves, or simply wear earplugs. Most importantly, if you sleep with your phone beside your bed, make sure it is on silent, so you are not disrupted with random notifications through the night.


The darker your room can be, the more restful your sleep. That being said, I personally cannot sleep in complete darkness. So, work out just how much light, or darkness you need. If you live in the city, consider block out curtains, if you have electronics in your room, make sure they are all turned off before you go to bed. Most importantly, set a time (at least an hour before you go to bed) that you stop looking at computer or phone screens. Light from these devices reduces the levels of melatonin in your body, and this is a hormone you need to sleep soundly.


A cooler body temperature is essential for a good night’s sleep. Taking a hot shower or bath right before bedtime can help rapidly lower your temperature and relax your mind and body. Keep your room cool, (a dual purpose for that fan or air-con unit) and invest in breathable, bedding with layering options. Even the simple act of sticking a foot or a leg out from under the blankets can lower your body temperature quicky and help send you off to sleep.

Three things to consider

Create a Sleep Routine

Consistency is key when it comes to sleeping. Try and keep your bedtime and waking time similar, even in the weekends. Sleeping in for several more hours on the weekend will probably leave you feeling more tired when Monday rolls around. Do something to relax before bed, stretches, take a shower (and reduce that body temperature) read a book, some people even find it beneficial to list three things to be grateful for from the day.

Don’t Fight

It If you are having trouble getting to sleep, don’t lie there getting more anxious about getting to sleep. Get up and focus your mind on something other than how many hours of potential sleep you have left. Read a few more pages in your book, stand outside in the cool air, or listen to a podcast or some music. Often the simple act of going to the loo and getting a glass of water can re-set your brain and calm you down.

Make Healthy Choices

What you put into your body impacts how you sleep. We all know the do’s and don’ts here, as they apply to so many other areas of our lives. Don’t eat dinner too late, hydrate during the day, not just before bedtime. Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine right before bed (in fact reduce these all together where you can). Exercise during the day can also help you sleep better, and that can be as simple as a 30min walk or bike ride, or some gardening.

Most importantly, if you have tried everything and you are still suffering from poor sleep (and the possible knock-on effects of ill mental and physical health), please seek professional help.

Start by seeing your GP or a mental health professional, they will be able to make recommendations for sleep. It may also help to track your sleep habits for a week and take notes to your next GP appointment. Often people can get caught up talking about other physical symptoms and forget to mention their sleepless nights to health care professionals.

When you start applying sleep strategies for your life, don’t forget that it takes a while for your body to catch up to your mind. You might start a routine and make some adjustments, but then find that it takes a while to get those eight hours a night you’ve been craving. You’ve got a lot of sleeping left to do in your life. Have faith that the right changes can make healthy sleep a reality and not just a dream.

Part 1 of a 4-part series on Daily Functioning.

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