Is chronic sleep deficiency damaging your health? Here's how to get back on track

Sleep struggles: There are many different reasons why people can't get enough sleep. But it can have a major effect on your health if it's not addressed. Photo: Shutterstock
Sleep struggles: There are many different reasons why people can't get enough sleep. But it can have a major effect on your health if it's not addressed. Photo: Shutterstock

This is sponsored content for Peel Health Campus, part of Ramsay Health Care.

Is daytime sleepiness stealing your spark? Do you struggle through your day in a fog of fatigue? In one of a series of articles from Mandurah's Peel Health Campus (PHC), part of Ramsay Health Care, aimed at keeping our community healthier, PHC respiratory and sleep specialist Dr Justin Ng advises how much sleep is needed for sound health and function, and suggests ways to help you get a better night's kip.

Good sleep is important for our health and wellbeing. It's just as important as eating well and getting enough exercise.

Lack of sleep can have a major impact on mood, concentration, and memory.

I'm often asked the question: how much sleep does an adult need?

The Australasian Sleep Association has endorsed the 2015 recommendations of the US-based National Sleep Foundation.

Young adults 18 to 25 generally need seven to nine hours a night, but as few as six hours, or as many as ten to 11 hours can be OK for some.

Adults 26 to 64 are also recommended to get seven to nine hours a night, but many can function reasonably well on as few as six or as many as ten.

Older adults can function well on a little less sleep: seven to eight hours is a healthy range, or some need just five to six hours or up to nine hours.

A person who routinely gets less than the necessary amount of sleep for their needs and experiences impaired daytime functioning is said to have 'chronic sleep insufficiency'.

This condition is common in our modern society and I see it frequently in clinical practice.

Chronic sleep insufficiency can result from a variety of factors, including work demands/stress, social and family responsibilities, modern technology, medical conditions, and sleep disorders.

Some common culprits are:

  • Late evening consumption of digital entertainment, such as TV shows and movies, social media and gaming.
  • Constant intrusions from the workplace through emails, phone calls and texts, making it impossible to 'switch off' from your working day.
  • Disruptions to routines; for instance, long shifts and travel common to FIFO workers.
  • Medical disorders such as depression and chronic pain.
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea and insomnia.

Tips for better sleep

There is action you can take to try to address the problem and help you get enough slumber time.

Here's some suggestions:

  • Establish a regular sleep pattern and allow yourself enough time in bed to allow for sufficient hours of sleep.
  • Keeping a 'sleep diary' can help you track how much sleep you're getting over a one-week period. You may find some patterns that are hindering your ability to get enough sleep.
  • Avoid using electronic devices like smartphones/tablets or laptops late in the evening, as these can interfere with sleep.
  • Give yourself enough time to wind down and relax from your day before you retire for the night.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes prior to sleep. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that can keep you awake while alcohol can interfere with your sleep patterns.
  • Avoid daytime naps, particularly if you are planning on going to bed in the following four to six hours. If you really need to nap, an optimal nap time is 20 minutes.

If you are still having trouble achieving adequate sleep and are concerned about a medical or sleep disorder, make sure you see your doctor for an assessment.

Peel Health Campus's Dr Justin Ng

Peel Health Campus's Dr Justin Ng

More information on sleep health is available at www.sleepfoundation.org and www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au

This content is sponsored by Peel Health Campus, which is part of Ramsay Health Care.