What happened when I started prioritising sleep

Amy Reynolds was so fatigued that she couldn’t work for three months. Then she decided to shape her lifestyle around getting enough sleep.

Amy Reynolds, 32, has been living with lupus, an autoimmune disease, for eight years.

The psychology lecturer and sleep researcher, from Adelaide, says it wasn’t until she started truly prioritising sleep that she realised how essential it was to her health and wellbeing.

This is Amy’s story:

“I was 24 when I was diagnosed with lupus. I’d been struggling with fatigue and joint pain for a long time.

The fatigue was so bad that, for three months, I couldn’t go to work – I physically couldn’t leave the house alone.

An immunologist ran tests and I was diagnosed with lupus in 2010.

It causes chronic pain, arthritis and joint pain, disrupts my sleep, and I’m often fatigued even if I sleep well.

I was beginning my PhD in sleep research when I was diagnosed and so I understood the importance of a good sleep routine and I prioritised sleep.

But then I had children, now aged six and four, and I realised just how much I relied on sleeping well to stay well.

Children meant extra demands on my time and so I had more pain and I picked up more coughs and colds because I didn’t sleep well.

So I became more mindful of shaping my lifestyle to get enough sleep to improve my health.

There are days when I don’t stick to routine because things happen, but I try!

Amy Reynolds decided to prioritise sleep and overhaul her health

How I shape my lifestyle around sleep

At weekends I plan meals for the week ahead.

So once I finish work I know what I am cooking and my kids and I can eat dinner around 5.30pm and be ready for bed earlier.

I don’t drink caffeine after midday because it keeps me awake, I dim the lights at night and don’t watch a lot of TV in the hour before bed.

I listen to music, keep my bedroom dark and I’m usually in bed by 10.30pm.

When I wake, I want to feel ready to take on the day.

Why you should prioritise sleep, too

If you don’t get enough sleep, you might quickly notice that you’re moodier and your attention isn’t as good.

But lack of sleep has impacts on our health we can’t see, such as having a role in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

And it can make managing chronic pain and disease harder.

Sleep is as important for health as physical activity and eating well but it doesn’t get the same attention.

Prioritise sleep, make it part of your life and it can go a long way to helping you feel healthier.

Top tips for top sleep

To develop good sleep habits, the Sleep Health Foundation recommends:

  • Keep regular times for going to bed and getting up.
  • Relax for an hour before going to bed.
  • Avoid going to bed on a full or empty stomach.
  • If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes in bed, got to another room until you feel tired again.
  • Keep distractions out of the bedroom.
  • Get some sunlight during the day.
  • Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep.
  • An evening nap can make it hard to sleep at night.

World Sleep Day 2019 is on March 15. Learn more at the Sleep Health Foundation.

Written by Sarah Marinos.