Today is World Sleep Day; an annual celebration of catnaps, slumberland, siestas and forty winks organised by the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM). The event is meant to raise awareness about sleep disorders and their preventability — but it's also a perfect excuse to catch up on some much-needed shuteye. (Hey, it's for science!)
Sleep picture from Shutterstock
This year, the Australasian Sleep Association (ASA) has chosen to focus on the elderly, who typically have the most difficulty falling asleep. According to ASA president Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, this can be attributed to medical and psychiatric conditions, specific sleep disorders, increased use of medication and changes in circadian sleep-wake cycles.
“As we age, our circadian body clock is shifted to an early time, which can cause difficulties in getting a good night’s sleep," Rajaratnam said.
“Older people can achieve a good night’s sleep but they might need to talk to their doctor about their medications, adjust the time they go to bed and wake up earlier because their body clock’s sleep-wake cycles have shifted, or get treatment for other conditions that are interfering with their sleep.”
Whatever your age, there are specific steps you can take to limit the amount of tossing-and-turning you do in bed. Here are the ASA's Top 10 tips for getting a good night's sleep:
- Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Don’t use the bedroom as an office, workroom or recreation room.
- Fix a bedtime and an awakening time.
- If you are in the habit of taking siestas (naps), do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime sleep.
- Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion four hours before bedtime and do not smoke.
- Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
- Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods four hours before bedtime. A light snack before bed is acceptable.
- Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
- Use comfortable bedding.
- Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated.
- Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
We also recommend reading our co-worker Mark Serrel's Uberman Sleep Schedule experiment. For one month, Mark attempted to live off six 20-minute naps spread evenly throughout the day. "It was horrible and I nearly went insane," reflects Mark. If nothing else, his hellish experience should put you in the mood for bed.