How to improve your wellbeing through gratitude

Sleep is so much more than simple rest.

Getting a good night’s sleep is great for our physical and psychological wellbeing, and expressing gratitude helps to promote that, writes ELENA IACOVOU.

When we sleep, the brain and body don’t shut down; rather, they perform important tasks that promote both mental and physical health. During this time, the body works at producing hormones that help repair cells that fight off illness and the brain forms new pathways that help us learn and remember information, which are imperative to our functioning during waking hours. And yet, with so much research in the field, we’re not getting enough of it.

A 2016 Sleep Health Foundation survey found that, for 33 to 45 per cent of Australian adults, getting a good night’s sleep is a challenge. Most people have difficulty falling asleep, while others sleep poorly or not long enough, leaving them feeling fatigued and irritable the next day. As a result of sleep apnoea, between 22 and 28 per cent suffer from depression, anxiety and hypertension, while up to 20 per cent admit to have drowsed off while at work or to have fallen asleep at the wheel. So, what’s keeping Australians awake at night?
Nominated causes include environmental stimuli such as noise and light, but cognitive or emotional issues, such as stress, worrying and physical pain were high on the list of causes for 24 to 28 per cent of the population.

“Unfortunately, today, our minds are so active they’re actually keeping us up rather than letting us relax,” says Cheryl Fingleson, sleep consultant (thesleepcoach.com.au). “Holding on to negative thoughts, including lifestyle habits – like using the internet or watching TV as the last thing we do before bed, or charging our phones next to us with the blue light blinking all through the night – prevent us from being able to properly unwind and get to sleep.”

“In addition, when we’re already sleep deprived, because of sleep disorders, we start becoming anxious about not being able to fall asleep and this can lead to symptoms of mild depression,” she says. “Therefore, when stress, anxiety and depression all combine, they perpetuate a cycle of sleeping disturbances which keep our cortisol levels high [the stress hormone], signalling to the brain to stay awake, and this inhibits melatonin [the sleep hormone] to release so we can relax. For this reason, we want to do something positive before we go to bed to enable us to self-settle our minds.”

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