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13 ways to improve your sleep, according to a sleep doctor

We all know that we probably need to get more sleep – and the many benefits that come with achieving a consistent eight hours a night. However, the negative effects of missing out on precious shut eye make getting enough sleep every night a necessity, not a luxury.

Recent research revealed that an estimated 15 million Australians aged 20 years and over have sleep disorders, which in turn can lead to serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease.

Dr Justin Hundloe from GenesisCare Australia says that increasingly busy Aussies need to look at their sleep environment as a key factor contributing to a good or bad night’s sleep.

Here, he shares 13 ways that you can improve your sleep patterns and get a good night’s rest easily and consistently:

1.Go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning

Sounds simple, but we all know how hard it can suddenly be to keep a consistent bedtime when your social calendar starts filling out and quick dinners turn into long evenings catching up with old friends.

2. Refrain from taking naps during the day

Avoid napping during the day if you want to ensure the best possible night’s sleep. However, if you absolutely must shut your eyes during the day, a ‘power nap’ of around 20 minutes is ideal, says sleep consultant Dr David Cunnington, co-founder of Sleep Hub.

3. Go to bed only when you are drowsy

Winding down at the end of the day is key to getting ready for a good night’s sleep.

4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol within six hours of bedtime

We all know that consuming caffeine in the evening is a no-go if you want to drift off easily, but a series of experiments conducted at the University of Missouri-Colombia showed that a single night of drinking alcohol can also disturb the gene that regulates our sleep.

5. Avoid the use of nicotine close to bedtime or during the night

Just like alcohol and caffeine, nicotine is also going to mess with your sleep pattern and effect the quality of your shut-eye.

6. Obtain regular exercise, but avoid strenuous exercise four hours before bedtime

Studies show that exercising releases the feel-good hormone, dopamine, which often feels like a surge of energy through the body -the last thing you need to be feeling just when you’re trying to relax before bed.

7. Avoid eating a heavy meal late in the day

Thanks to our circadian rhythm, our metabolism and hormones are programmed to do their work in the day when humans are active, and then store, build and recover at night when we rest, sleep and regenerate. This means ideally we should try and consume our last meal of the day by 8pm at the latest.

8. Minimise light, noise and extreme temperatures in the bedroom

Previous research revealed that four in 10 people can’t get to sleep unless the room is completely dark, and a quarter can’t drop off unless there’s a total absence of noise.

9. Follow a routine to help you relax before sleep. Read a book, listen to music, or take a bath

Netflix is a no-go, so close your laptops and avoid those screens people.

10. Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep or sex

This means that you will relate getting into bed with relaxation, keeping it as a space for rest.

11. Try making a to-do list before you go to bed

Dr Justin Hundloe says that this will prevent losing precious hours when you could be sleeping on “worry time”.

12. Avoid clock watching

Counting sheep may help you drift off, but counting the minutes ticking by will not – so don’t keep checking your phone if you’re struggling to sleep.

13. If you have ongoing sleep issues seek professional medical advice

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