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The Benefits of Good Sleeping Habits

Staying up late to finish off an assignment or an addictive Netflix series is harmless every once and a while – but not if it’s affecting your sleep. A lack of quality sleep on a regular basis can negatively impact your physical and mental health. 

To put you on the path towards improving your sleep patterns, we’ve put together a list of the benefits of good sleeping habits, as well as a few tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.

What are good sleeping habits?  

If you’re wondering “How many hours should I sleep?”, the answer is that most adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep every night. However, good sleeping habits don’t just refer to the amount of sleep you’re getting, but the quality of your sleep, too. If you’re sleeping for eight hours but waking up during the night, then your body isn’t getting good-quality rest.

You can take a simple test to find out if you’re getting enough sleep. During the day, set your phone timer for 15 minutes and try to fall asleep. If you fall asleep before the timer goes off, then you need more sleep.

The benefits of getting enough sleep 

  • Clear thinking 

Have you ever tried to focus in class after a lack of sleep? You will no doubt know how difficult it is to think clearly and get your work done. 

A study actually found that a lack of sleep can cause your concentration, attention span and judgement to be equal to that of someone with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 per cent. This is because without enough sleep, your amygdala has a weaker connection to your frontal lobe, which controls decision making. This means that you’re not only going to struggle with academic work, but also with driving a car, socialising and making good decisions. 

  • Memory 

It’s crucial to get a good night’s sleep before an important test or exam – this is because sleep is vital to short-term and long-term memory. Memory strengthening occurs during the deepest stage of our sleep cycle, so getting a good-quality sleep is just as important as getting enough. Without reaching the deepest level of your sleep cycle, your brain won’t have a chance to do this important work. 

  • Mood 

If you’ve ever been in contact with a toddler who hasn’t had a nap, you will understand just how important sleep is to your mood. Research has found that even one bad night of sleep can increase your cortisol levels by up to 45 per cent.

Known as the stress hormone, high cortisol levels can increase stress and anxiety. This is why you might feel more irritable and emotional after a bad night’s sleep. If you are regularly losing sleep and feeling anxious or stressed, then your mental health may be suffering – another important reason to incorporate good sleeping habits into your lifestyle. 

  • Physical health 

When you sleep, your body is not only resting, but also undertaking important biological processes to keep you healthy. Sleep is when our nerve cells communicate and reorganise, our muscles repair, and our hormones are released. Research has found that a lack of sleep can lead to decreased immunity, increasing the likelihood of catching a cold or flu. Getting sick can be disruptive to your studies, so it’s especially crucial to get enough sleep during the semester. 

How to get a good night’s sleep

Some experts recommend going to sleep at the same time every night to help sync your sleep-wake cycle. While this may not be possible every night, it’s best to at least try to stick to a similar time for the majority of the week. You may also like to start incorporating a few of the below habits that send your body the message that it’s time to sleep. 

  • Start in the day 

What you do during the day can impact your sleep at night. Exercise tires your body out and can make it easier to fall asleep, so ensure that you get outside and move your body during the day. 

You should also avoid having too much caffeine in the afternoon. Caffeine can affect your body for up to six hours and stay in your system for up to 10, so you may like to swap your coffee for a cup of decaf or herbal tea after lunch. 

  • Create a wind-down routine 

One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to create a bedtime routine. This routine should consist of habits that will help you relax and wind down for the night, such as switching off your electronics and swapping your screen out for a book. You might also like to have a shower or bath, do some gentle yoga or meditation, and make sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet. 

  • Help your body fall asleep  

Breathing exercises are fantastic for helping your body to relax and release any anxieties. You can find guided and unguided breathing exercises online. If you have been struggling to sleep for over 20 minutes, it’s a good idea to get up and do something else, like read a book, until you feel sleepy again. 

If you find that your lack of sleep is affecting your daily life, you should seek help from a doctor or medical professional.

If you’re a student with Medibank OSHC, you can also call the 24/7 Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283 at any time, day or night. Through the support line, you can access advice and over the phone counselling as part of your cover. An interpreter service is also available, so you can speak to someone in your own language.