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Are you getting a good nights sleep?

Calendar Thu, 20 Jul 2017Share

Getting a better night’s sleep

Sleep is important for our everyday lives and lack of sleep can have a negative effect on our mood, relationships, work and quality of life. Poor sleep quality can increase the prevalence of illness which in turn reduces our capacity of work and can result in more sick leave taken. The value of getting a good night’s sleep is as important as good nutrition and physical activity.

There are two types of sleep: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
In healthy sleep, NREM has four stages which get deeper as they progress and last for about 90 minutes. REM sleep lasts for only about 10 minutes and is the period where the brain is most active and where dreams occur.

This cycle of NREM and REM sleep gets repeated 4-6 times throughout the night and the ratio changes over the night as the amount of time in deep sleep (NREM) decreases and the REM cycle increases. Waking up during a period of deep sleep is an uncomfortable time to wake up and therefore a regular pattern of sleeping is important. Our bodies also cycle through a 24-hour sleep and wake cycle which is called circadian rhythm. These rhythms play an important role in controlling the timing of hormone release and the part of the brain which controls this can be affected by social activities, stress and light. 1 Our rhythms can be affected by our behaviours related to sleep which effect both sleep quality and duration. These behaviours are collectively known as sleep hygiene2.

Here are some tips to improve your sleep hygiene1,2,3 :

  • Improve sleep patterns – getting out of bed at the same time each morning regulates your sleep cycle and helps keep your body clock synchronised to what’s going on outside. Try and avoid a sleep in to make up for a poor night sleep however an occasional sleep-in won’t be harmful.
  • Reduce substance use before bedtime – e.g. nicotine, coffee and alcohol- levels of caffeine can last from 3-7 hours and this can disrupt your sleep pattern the closer it is to bed time. This also includes tea, dark chocolate and energy drinks. Nicotine can have an arousal effect on the body which also disrupts sleep. And although alcohol can influence a faster onset of sleep, the deep sleep periods (REM) become lighter and disproportional which reduces your sleep efficiency.
  • Keep up your exercise – regular physical activity has a positive effect on sleep but don’t be physically active right before bed as this can stimulate your body. It is also important to spend some time in natural light which helps your body produce melatonin which is a hormone that can make you feel sleepy
  • Reduce stress and stimulating activities prior to sleep – avoid using screens right before bed as this can stimulate your brain. Relaxation exercises such as deep breathing can help create a state of mind that is incompatible with the distraction of everyday stresses.1
  • Create a relaxing and restful room – try not to use your bedroom for work or other brain stimulating activities. It is important to make sure your bed is associated with sleeping. Try not to share your bed with your children or pets. Also, try to avoid bright lights and noises such as clocks with bright numbers.

Hopefully some of these tips can help you improve your sleep hygiene and therefore sleep quality. This will improve your mood and energy meaning you can complete more activities throughout the day and be more alert.

 Amy Burr - Principal Physiotherapist


  1. (2015). Retrieved from Family Doctor :
  2. (2016)Retrieved from Health Info:
  3. Barber, L., Grawitch, MJ., Munz, DC. (2013). Are Better Sleepers More Engaged Workers? A self-regulatory approach to Sleep Hygiene and Work Engagement . Stress Health, 29: 307-316.