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Good sleep

Good sleep is essential to maintain optimal health and well-being throughout our life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect our mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

Good sleep is essential to maintain optimal health and wellbeing throughout our lives. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect our mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

Key facts

  • Good sleep is incredibly important for health. In fact, it is just as important as eating healthy food and exercising.
  • Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you are sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day.
  • The amount of sleep you need depends on various factors,  especially your age. On average, an adult needs seven hours of good sleep. 
  • If you don’t have good sleep for a few days, you may feel tired and irritable but it will not seriously harm your health. Sleep deprivation for a longer period can lead to fatigue and many other physical and mental health problems.
  • You can take simple, practical measures to help you have good sleep.

Why is good sleep important?

  • Poor sleep is linked to weight gain and obesity because it affects the hormones that regulate appetite.
  • Good sleep can improve concentration and productivity.
  • Sleeping less than an average of seven hours per day increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Sleep affects glucose metabolism, so poor sleep increases the risk of developing  type 2 diabetes.
  • Poor sleeping patterns may lead to mental health problems such as depression, particularly for those with a sleeping disorder.
  • Sleep affects the body’s inflammatory responses. Poor sleep is linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and can increase the risk of these diseases recurring. 
  • Good sleep can improve the immune function and help fight the common cold.
  • Regular sleep disruption can make it difficult for men and women to conceive because it reduces the secretion of reproductive hormones.

Practical tips for good sleep

  • Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This helps set the body’s internal clock and optimises the quality of sleep.
  • Make sure the bed is comfortable.
  • Keep the bedroom dark and cool, at 17-20 degree Celsius.
  • Do not use the bed in the daytime for other things, such as watching TV, working, playing games on devices, or talking on the phone.
  • Switch off electronic devices at least half an hour before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and heavy meals late in the evening or before going to bed.
  • Wherever possible, get out in the sun, even for a short time. Exposure to sunlight boosts the serotonin levels which allow your body clock to regulate sleep patterns. 
  • Thinking about sleep too much or trying to force yourself to sleep will only keep you awake. Relaxation activities like yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing can help you have good sleep. 
  • While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, it can make things worse if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night.
  • People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day – but do not exercise late in the evening.
  • Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of fluids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.

Tips for shift workers for sufficient sleep and rest

  • Try not to work a number of night shifts in a row. You may become increasingly more sleep-deprived over several nights on the job. You are more likely to recover if you can limit night shifts. 
  • Avoid frequently rotating shifts. If you cannot, it is easier to adjust to a schedule that rotates from day shift to evening to night, rather than the reverse order.
  • If you have a fixed night shift, treat the shift as your normal working day. Adjust your meals and sleep times around it.
  • You may have the opportunity to take naps during breaks before or after your full/long sleep, which may help you feel more alert or rested. 
  • A nap of up to two hours can be a good way to prepare for a night shift. Allow yourself at least 30 minutes after waking to overcome grogginess and become fully alert.
  • Expose yourself to as much light as possible on your night shift. This will help your body with its natural day-night light cycle. Avoid turning off office lights or reducing the brightness of devices during night shift. 
  • Limit your caffeine intake. Drinking coffee/tea at the beginning of the shift will help promote alertness. However, do not consume caffeine later in the shift.
  • Keep your bedroom as dark as possible, even if you are sleeping in the daytime. 

You can also get in touch with the ITF using the free ITF Wellbeing app or ITF Wellbeing Facebook page to get guidance on good sleep.