Top tips for a better night’s sleep

Poor sleep can wreak havoc on the body – from affecting our mood to increasing the risk of diabetes and heart attacks. Here’s how to improve your shuteye.

Sleep is one of the most overlooked elements of good health – and not getting enough can have serious impacts.

Recent US research found getting less than six hours of sleep a night may increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 20 per cent.

Another study found people who regularly sleep less than six hours are more than four times more likely to have elevated blood sugar, and be at greater risk of diabetes, than people who sleep for longer.

The Sleep Health Foundation says about 60 per cent of people experience poor sleep three or more times a week – be it trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking too early.

But if you can’t seem to nail a decent sleep, University of Sydney research has found that being physically active may counter some of the harms poor sleep causes.

Get moving to boost your sleep

Researchers found that doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity may protect us against the risks posed by poor sleep.

“Both behaviours (sleep and physical activity) are critical for health but, sadly, our society suffers from both a physical inactivity and a poor sleep crisis,” Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney Charles Perkins Centre wrote in the report.

Start something you enjoy to increase exercise

Exercise physiologist Sam Rooney says start with something you enjoy if being active doesn’t come naturally.

The Exercise and Sports Science Australia spokesman advises:

  • “Go for a swim, a bike ride, dance, do some gardening or walk the dog. Get your heart rate up however you choose to do it,” Sam says.
  • Don’t under-estimate walking. “If you’re quite fit, make walking harder by carrying a backpack, finding stairs to go up and down, or walking as fast as you can,” he says.
  • Exercise so you develop a light sweat and are slightly out of breath.
  • “Aim to do at least 30 minutes of activity every day. If you have a couple of busy days and aren’t as active, try and make up that time on other days,” Sam says.
  • Avoid vigorous activity a couple of hours before bedtime as you might find it more difficult to fall asleep when your body’s core temperature and adrenalin level are elevated.

Written by Sarah Marinos.

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