Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to your health. Unfortunately, up to 45% of Australians have sleep difficulties – this can lead to health conditions or make existing ones worse.

Did you know that 19% of people that snore have a sleep disorder, and that a quarter of adults who use the internet just before bed have frequent sleep difficulties?

Not getting adequate rest affects our ability to function, as well as our health. After 17 hours without sleep, our alertness is similar to the effects of a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05. And for three quarters of people that sleep less than 5.5 hours, they suffer daytime impairment and fatigue. Insomnia in itself triples your risk of diabetes.

To improve sleep you can try the following:

  1. Reduce distractions. Eliminate noise, bright light and screen time prior to bed.
  2. Relax. Getting to sleep and getting quality sleep needs a relaxed mind and body. Find a way to unwind.
  3. Aim for routine. Go to bed at the same time, and only use bed for sleep and sex.
  4. Avoid caffeine, reduce alcohol and quit smoking.
  5. Get help. Counselling for depression and anxiety, pain management, and screen for any thyroid, heart or respiratory disorders with your GP.

Sleep disturbances can often be a result of lifestyle, such as night shifts, caffeine, worry and stress. But there are also sleep conditions that cause poor sleep which are treatable. A sleep study can diagnose a range of sleep conditions, including:

  • Sleep apnoea, or obstruction of your airway whilst sleeping
  • Periodic limb movement disorder
  • Narcolepsy, or daytime sleepiness
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Nighttime behaviours, such as sleep walking

These days sleep studies can be performed at home or in the hospital. It monitors your brain and body whilst you sleep, and can detect disruptions in your sleep stages. Eye movements, oxygen levels, heart and breathing rates, snoring and body movements are monitored without needles. Referral from a GP is required.

Sleep apnoea is a common condition detected during sleep studies – it occurs in up to a third of all adults and is linked to obesity and insulin resistance. Apnoea is defined as a brief and frequent disruption to breathing by up to 10 seconds, resulting in poor quality sleep. Risk factors include small upper airway, being overweight, having a recessed chin, small jaw or a large overbite, a large neck size, smoking and alcohol use, being age 40 or older, and ethnicity (e.g. Pacific Islanders).

Treatment of sleep apnoea includes using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, weight loss, alcohol reduction, smoking cessation, and positional techniques (e.g. lying on one’s side to sleep). These treatments are effective in combination and have a positive impact not only on quality of sleep but also day time energy, mood and long term health outcomes.

So if you snore, or have a family member or friend that does, consider a sleep study to identify any issues.

Information flyer: 20180606 Patient education – Sleep v1