15.09.2023 - Mental Health


A good night’s sleep is more than just a luxury - it’s a vital component of optimal health and well-being. In today’s fast-paced society, it is easy to neglect the importance of quality sleep, but doing so can have detrimental effects on both our physical and mental health. Sleep is a foundational pillar to all functions of the body. It helps regulate hormones, improve concentration, boost the immune system, reduce stress, and improve mood.

How can we ensure that we’re getting the best sleep possible? The answer lies in understanding and addressing the factors that contribute to poor sleep. By establishing a healthy sleep schedule, creating a sleep-inducing environment, and being mindful of our eating and drinking habits, we can significantly improve our sleep quality and experience the numerous health benefits that come with a good night’s rest.

The Importance of Quality Sleep

Sleep is essential for maintaining our overall health. Thus, achieving quality sleep is crucial. Falling asleep may seem like a simple task, but a myriad of factors can influence our ability to achieve a truly restorative sleep. Insufficient sleep quality has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, depression, and dementia. Factors such as working night shifts, irregular schedules, and high-stress periods can all contribute to trouble sleeping.

Quality sleep has numerous benefits, including enhanced brain performance, improved mood, and increased immune functioning, working to reduce the risk of various diseases and disorders. One of the keys to achieving quality sleep is maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm, which in turn increases daytime energy and optimises nighttime sleep quality and duration.

Circadian rhythm is the body's biological clock that regulates cycles of alertness and sleepiness in response to internal cues like hormone levels and external ones like light changes in the environment. One of the most important functions of the circadian rhythm is the sleep-wake cycle which helps regulate our sleep and wakefulness with day and night to create stable patterns of rest that enable daytime activities. Exposure to light during the day sends signals to generate alertness, but as night falls and light exposure is reduced, signals initiate the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for the promotion of sleep.

Good sleep quality is defined as falling asleep within 30 minutes of being in bed, sleeping through the night with minimal wake-ups, and achieving the recommended amount of hours of sleep for your age group. Being consistent with sleep schedules is one of the ways that you can reinforce your body's circadian rhythm and achieve these sleep goals.

Identifying Poor Sleep Patterns

Recognising the signs of poor sleep quality is critical in taking the necessary steps to improve our rest. Some indications of inadequate sleep include:

  • Feeling fatigued and groggy in the morning
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Frequent awakenings throughout the night
  • Daytime exhaustion
  • Impaired concentration

Sleep hygiene, stress, sleep apnea or another chronic health condition, and/or sleep disorders can all contribute to insomnia. Being aware of the potential triggers for poor sleep can help you establish better sleeping habits.

Poor sleep habits can also negatively affect our sleep quality. An irregular sleep schedule, consuming excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol, and smoking can all interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep quality can manifest in various ways, such as restlessness during sleep, difficulty concentrating, worsened mood, and even an increased risk of cancer.

By identifying poor sleep patterns and addressing their potential causes, we can take the necessary steps to improve our sleep quality and overall well-being. Recognising the signs of inadequate sleep and taking action to correct them is vital in achieving optimal health and preventing the potential risks associated with poor sleep.

Addressing Sleep Disorders

Common sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and insomnia, can significantly impact our sleep quality and overall health. It’s essential to be aware of the indications of sleep disorders, such as cognitive impairments and mood disturbances, and seek professional help for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment options for common sleep disorders include cognitive behavioural therapy and sleep medicine. Addressing sleep disorders is crucial not only for improving sleep quality but also for preventing the potential health risks associated with chronic sleep deprivation.

Chronic health conditions like lung diseases, asthma, acid reflux, renal disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain are all linked to sleep deprivation. If you suspect that you may have a sleep disorder, it is vital to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. Taking the necessary steps to address and treat sleep disorders can significantly improve your sleep quality and overall well-being.

Improving Your Sleep Quality

As we've just explored, sleep plays a vital role in our health and well-being. Establishing a consistent wake time each day, reducing exposure to light in the evening, and maintaining a healthy diet are among some of the things we can do to help promote quality sleep. Techniques to improve sleep quality all aim to help the body adjust to a regular sleep pattern and make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Here, we'll examine a few of these techniques.

Establishing a Healthy Sleep Schedule

Maintaining consistency in how much sleep you get reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle, promoting better sleep quality. One strategy to improve your sleep schedule is to wake up and go to sleep at consistent times each day, as this helps train your brain to naturally feel tired around bedtime.

Oftentimes, we know that we need to wake up at a specific time, say 6 a.m., so we get into bed at 10 p.m., thinking that we will get a full night's rest. What we often fail to take into account when deciding what time to go to bed is our sleep opportunity. Sleep opportunity refers to the window of time that we have available to sleep but does not represent the actual amount of time we spend asleep. If we want to get 8 hours of sleep, for example, we need to account for the time it takes to fluff our pillows, turn off the lights, and fall asleep.

Prioritising your sleep schedule and establishing habits that promote healthy sleep patterns not only leads to improved sleep quality but also benefits overall health and well-being.

Creating a Sleep-Inducing Environment

Setting up a bedroom environment that promotes relaxation and good sleep is essential for achieving quality rest. To create the ideal bedroom environment, it is important to:

  • Minimise external noise and light
  • Turn off any artificial lights from devices like alarm clocks
  • Ensure the bedroom is a tranquil, pleasant, and orderly space

Electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers, emit blue light, which can disrupt sleep by interfering with the body’s natural circadian rhythm. To reduce nighttime blue light exposure, consider using blue light filters on your devices or wearing blue light-blocking glasses. Better yet, consider spending a minimum of 30 minutes off-screen before bed to truly adopt an effective wind-down routine.

Darkness promotes the secretion of melatonin, a hormone involved in the onset of sleep. In addition to electronic devices and screens, be mindful of overhead lighting in your home. By reducing the amount of lights in your home by 50% in the evenings, you help feed cues to your circadian rhythm that it is nighttime and that it is soon time to sleep.

Temperature also plays an important role in the promotion of sleep. In order to initiate sleep, your body needs to drop its core temperature by 2-3°. Consider keeping temperatures lower in the bedroom or taking a hot shower or bath before bed. The warm water can act as a thermal radiator, taking all the heat out of the core of your body, allowing your core body temperature to drop enough to help trigger a sleep state.

Optimising your sleep environment by reducing overhead and blue-light exposure in the evening or relaxing with a book before sleeping are sleep-promoting habits that act as cues to your brain and body to start winding down for the night. By taking these factors into consideration and making necessary adjustments, you can create a sleep-inducing environment that promotes restorative, quality sleep.

Mindful Eating and Drinking for Better Sleep

Food and drinks, like light, are powerful in regulating circadian rhythm. As such, diet and beverage choices can significantly influence sleep quality. Knowing how these can affect our sleep allows us to make better choices in our diets to help us optimise our sleep.

Caffeine is one of the most accessible and consumed psychoactive stimulants. Bearing many positive properties, such as increased alertness and concentration, it also greatly impacts sleep. Caffeine has a half-life (the time it takes for half of a substance to be excreted out of the system) of 6-7 hours. What this means is that if you have a cup of coffee at 12 p.m., half of it will still be active at midnight. Furthermore, those who consume caffeine in the evening are shown to experience a 20% reduction in deep sleep - a sleep stage that is important for many physical, emotional, and cognitive functions. A deficit in deep sleep is normal with age; however it is easily preventable at younger ages by being mindful of sleep habits.

Alcohol is a sedative and is often believed to help you fall asleep. An important distinction, however, is that sedation is not the same thing as sleep. Sedation involves diminishing cortical activity but does not promote a true state of sleep. Alcohol further blocks REM sleep, which is an important sleep stage that plays a role in memory consolidation, emotional processing, brain development, and dreaming. As such, alcohol can exacerbate the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns while also disrupting nighttime melatonin production.

Late-night eating can lead to poor-quality sleep. Specifically, high-calorie meals filled with fats or carbohydrates less than an hour before going to bed can prolong the time it takes to fall asleep at night. This may also disturb the production of hormones such as human growth hormone (HGH) and melatonin, which are essential for the healthy functioning of our body. To improve your sleep quality, consider consuming a light, healthy snack before bed if you’re hungry, but avoid large meals that can cause discomfort and disrupt your sleep.

Finally, decreasing fluid intake in the late evening can reduce the likelihood of awakening during the night due to nocturia.

By being mindful of your eating and drinking habits, you can significantly improve your sleep quality and overall well-being.

Incorporating Physical Activity

Regular physical activity has numerous benefits, including a positive effect on sleep quality. Engaging in regular exercise can reduce symptoms of insomnia and promote better sleep.

Physical activity and sleep have a bidirectional relationship. It has been observed in athletes that the risk for injury increases when an individual engaging in physical activity does not get enough sleep. What's more, the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the respiratory system is worse in individuals who are sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation also leads to a decreased motivation to be physically active and causes individuals' workouts to be of lower intensity.

By incorporating physical activity into your daily routine, you not only enjoy the numerous health benefits that come with regular exercise but also improve your sleep quality. It is important to find a balance between the timing and intensity of your exercise to avoid disrupting your sleep, as working out too close to bedtime can actually lead to disruptions to your sleep. Experiment with different types of activities and times of day to determine what works best for you and your sleep patterns.

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can significantly impact sleep quality. Implementing strategies to manage stress and anxiety is crucial for achieving a good night’s sleep and overall well-being. Incorporating stress management techniques can help alleviate anxiety and promote better sleep. Some techniques to try include:

  • Organise yourself for the next day (i.e. pack your bag or prepare a lunch)
  • Journal before bed
  • Meditate
  • Practise deep breathing

Through the use of techniques to help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, you can significantly improve your sleep quality and overall well-being.

Sleep-Enhancing Supplements

Melatonin supplements can be helpful for some individuals, with a recommended dosage of 1-5 mg taken 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Remember that supplements should not be considered a substitute for proper sleep hygiene and other healthy sleep habits.

Natural supplements, such as lavender and magnesium, may also aid in improving sleep quality. However, these are not recommended as replacements for sleep medication.


Sleep and Ageing

As we age, it’s common to experience changes in sleep patterns, such as a decrease in the amount of sleep and a decline in sleep quality. To promote healthy ageing and sleep, establish a regular sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and maintain a sleep-friendly environment.

Additionally, to maintain good sleep quality throughout our lives and ensure we get enough sleep, it is important to:

  • Engage in regular exercise
  • Manage stress
  • Avoid napping late in the day
  • Maintain a healthy diet

By recognising and addressing the changes in sleep patterns as we age, we can ensure that we get the restful sleep we need.

Sleep is a vital component of our overall health and well-being. By understanding the importance of quality sleep, identifying poor sleep patterns, addressing sleep disorders, and implementing healthy sleep habits, we can significantly improve our sleep quality and overall well-being.

Cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTI) is beneficial for individuals with sleeping problems. While sleep medicine can lead to rebound insomnia and other side effects, CBTI can help maintain positive sleep attitudes and behaviours in the long run, working as a protective factor against sleep deprivation and other health concerns.

The Kusnacht Practice is equipped to treat a variety of concerns. Our psychiatric and medical teams working alongside sleep experts, nutritionists, and personal trainers, to name a few, are dedicated to your well-being, providing personalised treatments tailored to your individual needs and goals. Whether it be for getting help with trouble sleeping or managing symptoms of other mental or physical health concerns, our team is here to support you.

Our BIO-R® Sleep Restoration programme involves a combination of coaching, measurement of the autonomic nervous system, tracking of sleeping phases, and practices such as yoga, mindfulness, and aromatherapy. This programme can help re-establish regular sleep patterns and help achieve a state of restorative sleep to help you reach your best potential self.

Consider reaching out if you are experiencing difficulty sleeping or wish to improve your sleep quality.