Monday, 3 August – Sunday, 9 August 2020
We've been thinking a lot about this year's theme for Sleep Awareness Week 2020: "Sleep is the critical third pillar in achieving maximum mental health and overall wellness." The idea that sleep is the third pillar of health beside nutrition and exercise is something you've heard us talk about a lot. Yet, we bet you've been told to eat healthier and exercise infinitely more.
While we spend about a third of our lives sleeping – more than eating or exercising (at least we hope!) – we don't give it nearly as much attention. This is despite 40% of Australian adults not getting enough sleep1, and 50% who have trouble sleeping 3 or more nights a week.1
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, having healthy sleep now takes on extra importance for our mental health and overall wellness.
It's fair to say the world is now in limbo. Some of us may feel worried, socially isolated and even overwhelmed with all that's going on. The best thing to do is to follow all public health advice, and then sleep on what's happening.
Sleep is the easiest thing to turn to when you need some respite. Like a stroll by the seaside or in the woods, a good night's sleep can help you put each day into perspective. More often than not, you'll wake up being able to see your thoughts clearly and with a different attitude.
The other thing to remember is that poor sleep can lead to poor mental health, and vice versa. Did you know you're more likely to wake up anxious if you get less than 5 hours sleep a night compared with people who get more?1 It's a negative loop that can snowball. That's why it's crucial to get on top of sleep issues as soon as they arise before they become major.
If there are bigger issues at play beyond day-to-day mental stress, we do encourage you to seek professional help. There are some things you can't sleep on forever.
Overall wellness isn't only your mental and physical health put together. It's a complete state of wellbeing that encompasses every aspect of your life, including your social and spiritual self.
It's a state where you're doing everything as well as you can. Yet, almost 60% of us wake up not feeling that way.1 When we ask you to "awaken your best", we're pushing you to achieve that state described. Healthy sleep is a core ingredient for that to happen.
Nevertheless, it's hard to ignore the pure physical aspect of sleep on your body and circadian biology. Sleep is a time that the body depends on to repair itself. Some people may think of sleep as passive and abstract – because we're asleep when we're sleeping. But if you think of sleep as being like the other two pillars of health, poor sleep is the same as starving yourself of food or being a couch potato.
One of the most significant physical benefits of healthy sleep is how it benefits your immune system. If you don't sleep enough, your defence against harmful bugs or immunity weakens. So, think of healthy sleep as a daily dose of preventative medicine or even an immunity booster.
We get it. Even though you know the positive effects of sleep on your mental health and overall wellness, unhealthy habits are hard to break.
The more you think about changing your ways, the more likely the lizard part of your brain will talk yourself out of it. That's why we encourage you to use Sleep Awareness Week as an external motivator to fix your sleep.
The secret for any new habit is to make it a part of your regular routine and environment. If you want to get to bed earlier, one trick to try is to brush your teeth or put your PJ's on earlier than usual. These changes can help signal to your brain that it's bedtime.
Many people also use sleep health products – from eye masks to special pillows – to solve a variety of sleep issues. If you experience mild stress or anxiety, for example, one product that's claimed to ease your mind is a weighted blanket.
Another good tip is to practise the power of visualisation. We're sure you've had mornings where you've woken up feeling amazing. The only way to recreate that is to sleep better. Why not try and make every day during Sleep Awareness Week feel like that? It's been a tough year; catch a break while you can.
ResMed is a global leader in sleep technology that has its origins right here in Australia. Our goal is to provide people with the means to awaken their best and enjoy healthier lives by promoting good sleep habits and creating awareness for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
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