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Mariah Carey reportedly gets 15 hours a night, and Lady Gaga once famously spent 72 uninterrupted hours in her Egg Bed. Given sleep has become the ultimate luxury in our 24/7 times, it makes sense that pop divas are over-indulging in a commodity that money can’t buy. But for the rest of us mere mortals, the optimal eight hours often proves elusive.
Research by The Sleep Health Foundation in Sydney found 33 to 45 per cent of adults sleep either poorly or not long enough. That research was echoed in a recent survey of MECCA customers, 33% of whom get less than six hours sleep each night. The average teenager, meanwhile, is toggling between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night, well under the 8 to 10 hours they need for good physical and mental health. Alarmingly, researchers have found that experiencing sleep problems during childhood and adolescence are predictive of depression later in life.
Stress, electronic screens and caffeine are often routinely blamed for stealing our sleep. Bingeing on Netflix is probably not helping either. A 2016 report by the Sleep Health Foundation found that teens who put down their devices an hour before bed gained an extra 21 minutes sleep a night. No doubt the rest of us could also benefit if we stopped scrolling and started tuning into our circadian rhythm (internal body clock) instead of Instagram.
Professor Leon Lack, a clinical psychologist at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, says that working on a screen late at night may increase mental alertness and inhibit the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which makes us feel drowsy. “Exposure to light late in the evening can change your body clock and tend to delay it,” Professor Lack says. “Your body clock has a very strong effect on when you feel sleepy and when you feel awake.”
That’s why he recommends going to bed and waking at the same time, even on weekends, to help keep our circadian rhythm on track. Similarly, The Sleep Health Foundation recommends setting a regular bedtime and wake up time. It says other good sleep hygiene habits include avoiding all screens for at least an hour before bed and reading a book instead.
Mindfulness practices such as meditation, gratitude journaling, or gentle yoga can also help get you in the mood to slumber. Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea and energy drinks after midday and difficult conversations in the evenings. Make sure you finish eating and exercising at least a few hours before bed. But, most importantly, remember to stay relaxed. “Trying too hard to sleep can be counterproductive,” Professor Lack says.
This Works founder Kathy Phillips is a self-styled sleep doyenne. Phillips says when she finds herself worrying about something, she uses the bestselling Deep Sleep Pillow Spray and yoga breathing techniques to clear her mind. “Our Deep Sleep Bath Soak is brilliant too, as it has one of the biggest concentrations of therapeutic ingredients,” she says. “No good worrying about things. I think that lying there relaxing is at least allowing me some physical rest and meditation techniques help to put restless thoughts aside.”
Phillips’ other sleep hacks include locating the perfect pillow (“the pillows at the Ritz Carlton in Beijing are sublime”), no TV in the bedroom, and switching off her mobile phone at night. She also advises against drinking caffeine after 3pm and sleeping with the air conditioning on. And, finally, there is her Nurse Jamie Beauty Bear Age Defy Pillow, which goes everywhere she does. It’s believed to reinforce good sleeping habits and minimise sleep lines and wrinkles.
“Before I turn the light out I play Scrabble with my old school friend who lives in Australia as she has always completed her turn while I’m at work,” Phillips says. “I might also read a chapter of whatever book I’m reading but usually I crash. I love that aaah moment when you first lie down at the end of a busy day, and then the blissful knowledge that you might get a full seven or eight hours.” Here’s hoping you doze blissfully when your head hits the pillow tonight, too. Eight hours here you come.
Words by Jody ScottAugust 2018
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