A/Prof Danny Eckert Answers Most Common Sleep Questions
By Assoc Prof Danny Eckert
If you get disruptive or inadequate sleep, or if you suffer from sleep apnoea, it can adversely affect every organ in your body causing anxiety, depression and a range of mental disorders relating to your poor sleep quality.
In the workforce, poor sleep habits can also impact on your judgement and decision-making processes. If you are working with large figures, handling transactions or complex projects, then you could adversely impact the success of your work.
Q: Can you explain the relationship between sleep and mental health?
Mental health refers to a person’s psychosocial and emotional well-being. Sleep plays a major role in psychosocial and emotional well-being. Firstly, think to yourself, how do you feel after you haven’t slept well for a couple of nights? Most of us become irritable and emotionally unstable. Secondly, sleep disturbances are key symptoms of several mental health disorders (e.g. depression, mania, schizophrenia) and poor sleep increases the risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders. So, it’s a bidirectional relationship and the two are closely linked.
Q: What are some tools for developing better sleep habits?
It is of great value to have a standard sleep routine. This means timing to go to bed and get up in the morning at roughly the same time. Other things you can do to improve your sleep are making sure you avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, turn off the television, your laptop and preferably your smartphone at least an hour before you plan to sleep, because the blue light from these devices will delay your sleep onset and quality of sleep during the night. Also give yourself some time to wind down and relax before you go into bed and make sure you allow enough time for sleep (7-9 hours for adults).
Q: How do you build a positive sleep environment?
It is important to make the room you sleep in as comfortable as you can, make it dark, minimise noise and get a comfortable bed. Secondly, it is important that you primarily use this room to sleep in and not for other activities other than intimacy (e.g. avoid electronic devices including phones, TV, etc.)
Q: Can you give some helpful advice and tips on how to prioritise sleep?
The first step is to appreciate how important sleep is and that it greatly influences your well-being. An extra hour of sleep will probably bring you a lot more than watching the next episode of the series you’re watching on Netflix. Try to get about 7-9 hours of sleep on average and try to incorporate this into your daily life and routine. You’re not wasting your time!