GOOD SLEEP: It's a common problem with one in three people struggling with sleeping problems.
GOOD SLEEP: It's a common problem with one in three people struggling with sleeping problems. gpointstudio

Tips for better health through better sleep

WE might need less sleep as we age, but we still need to make our sleep work well towards keeping us healthy and happy.

Getting good sleep; it's a surprisingly common problem with one in three people struggling with sleeping problems.

So, when it comes time to put our head down each night there are some tips from medical doctor and professor of health science at RMIT Professor Marc Cohen, which we can follow to help us get the best out of sleep.

  • Aim for about seven hours a night.
  • Set up a regular sleep pattern and avoid the stimuli that throw you out of that regular pattern.
  • Try to wake up naturally rather to the noise of an alarm. This way you are less likely to disturb your sleep cycle.

What to avoid before sleep

  • Stay away from blue light which you find with mobile phones and computers.

"Blue light is what normally happens at sunrise," Professor Cohen says. "It's a stronger light and it turns off our melatonin which is a hormone which gets released when we are asleep in the dark."

  • Use a soft light for night toilet visits

For anyone who turns on a light when they get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, their melatonin production can be affected. That means you will wake up a lot more if exposed to white light.

Professor Cohen recommends plugging in a night light which utilises an orange or red light as either one won't affect your melatonin. These days you can even buy orange-light torches.

  • Sleep in a dark room

Reduce the amount of light in your bedroom throughout the night. This may mean turning down or away from where it will affect your sight during the night, the power light on the television, iphone charger, or even your clock radio.

  • Think before using prescribed sleep enhancers

They put you to sleep, but they also change your cycle so you don't get as much regenerative sleep. Professor Cohen recommends you avoid these "hypnotic medications", on a regular basis. "Herbal medicines are much safer and more appropriate to be used as a regular sleep enhancer," he adds.

Try herbal relaxants

The herb valerian along with hops has been used for a long time to help with sleep. However, the place and climate that a herb is grown in, and how it is processed, is important. Not all valerian, for example, works well in sleep support medications.

The Ze91019 formula has been found to be the most effective. "It has been shown to help provide relief from getting to sleep or waking during the night, and it promotes melatonin production," Professor Cohen says. It is widely available in Australia under the name ReDormin Forte. "It helps you get to sleep and helps you stay asleep," he adds.

Other good sleep hygiene practices

  • Use the bedroom for sleeping, not for watching TV.
  • Try to go to bed at a regular time.
  • Keep power points away from your bedhead so you don't have your phone plugged in nearby and the wifi working close to you.
  • Power adapters generate quite a big electro-magnetic field Professor Cohen says. "It's better to sleep away from them; at least a metre away," he adds.
  • Consider having a hot bath before bedtime.
  • Pre-sleep mental and progressive physical relaxations exercises can help.
  • Don't watch late night TV which is full of stress, action or emotion.
  • Add a drop of lavender oil onto your pillow, or temple or wrists.

"Good quality sleep is a pillar of overall health," Professor Cohen says.

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