Expert advice on how to improve your sleeping habits

Adults typically need seven to eight hours of sleep each night to support healthy brain activity and overall well-being. Image: File

Adults typically need seven to eight hours of sleep each night to support healthy brain activity and overall well-being. Image: File

Published Mar 12, 2024


Vast numbers of people around the world are cutting down on their sleep time, to meet the demands of modern-day life.

But health experts are speaking out against this, insisting that the importance of sleep can’t be overstated.

This includes pharmacist Anneke Meyer of Medipost Pharmacy, who said a lack of quality sleep could lead to many health problems.

“Sleep is more than just rest – it's the cornerstone of a healthy life,” she explained.

“Adults typically need seven to eight hours of sleep each night to support healthy brain activity and overall well-being.”

Meanwhile, a 2019 Philips Global Sleep Survey found a staggering 62% of adults worldwide are not getting adequate sleep.

Addressing this research, Meyer said recognising the signs of inadequate sleep is crucial.

“If you’re experiencing changes in mood, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, persistent tiredness or trouble falling or staying asleep, it may be time to reassess your sleeping habits.”

The pharmacist also warned that insufficient sleep can impair cognitive function and increase the risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, dementia and diabetes.

Here are Meyer’s five indicators that could signal that you need to get more and better rest:

  • Changes in mood and motivation.
  • Daytime fatigue and irritability.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Persistent tiredness, despite ample time in bed.
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep.

"If any of these resonate with you, it’s time to prioritise your sleeping habits," she said.

Creating a sleep-friendly environment can help you with your slumbers. Image: File

Meyer also offered five practical tips for better sleep:

Stick to a consistent sleep schedule

Waking up and going to bed at the same time each day, even on weekends, establishes a more ingrained rhythm for your body clock and helps your brain prepare better for sleep.

Create a sleep-friendly environment

Before getting some shut-eye, keep your room cool and dark. It is also recommended that you buy a high-quality mattress and comfortable bed linens. A white-noise machine can also help you fall asleep.

Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, alcohol and smoking before bed

Health experts have warned that substances such as caffeine can be felt for up to eight hours after they were ingested.

The effects of eating heavy food and drinking coffee and alcohol break natural sleep rhythms, making it harder for you to get a decent night’s rest.

Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom

Smartphones and mobile devices often over-stimulate the brain and keep you distracted, making it more difficult for you to fall asleep.

You should end screen time at least 30-60 minutes before going to sleep.

Exercise regularly

Moving your body regularly helps to balance your melatonin and cortisol levels throughout the day.

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum has said that getting outside often during the day and reducing the time spent outside at night may also lead to better sleep.

The organisation believes mind-body treatments for insomnia such as yoga, tai chi and meditation can improve sleep quality.

Meyer said over-the-counter medications could offer temporary relief for those who struggle with sleep-related issues, but she stressed the need for responsible use of such substances, cautioned against exceeding recommended dosages, and highlighted the potential side effects of such drugs.

“Persistent sleep issues warrant professional attention, and anyone experiencing chronic insomnia or sleep disturbances should consult a health-care provider promptly.”

“While medication may offer some relief, it is important to carefully manage the use of such substances, owing to their addictive nature and potentially dangerous side effects.”

Meyer explained that chronic medication management is particularly crucial for those with co-existing health conditions.

“We strongly encourage patients to discuss their medication with their health-care providers, and to double check how it may interact with some of the other medicines they are already taking.”