What your lack of sleep is doing to your body

GETTING a good night’s sleep could prevent heart disease and diabetes, experts say.

Sunday Herald Sun investigation has found that some people are getting as little as four hours of sleep a night.

Smartphones, late night TV, shift work and late night sport have been blamed for increasingly sleepless nights.

Alfred Hospital head of physiology Dr Bruce Thompson has warned people needed to change their routines because a lack of sleep could lead to heart disease and diabetes.

Dr Thompson has worked on the area of sleep for more than 13 years.

He warned that sleep was crucial to maintaining a healthy heart and reducing blood pressure.

“Simply from a poor quality of sleep, health conditions like heart disease become more prevalent. People begin to make bad food choices when they are tired, which can lead to obesity and diabetes.”

“Sleep, diet and exercise are the holy trinity, so to speak, of what makes up our body,” Dr Thompson said.

He said that the biggest problem Australians face with sleeping was the “glass screen in front of us.”

“I believe our bodies will never adjust to the television and phone screens which are bright, so our bodies release melatonin to stay awake. Nature has told us to sleep when the sun goes down, which gives us an average of 8 hours sleep a night,” he said.

He also warned that shift workers were at risk because of their interrupted sleep patterns.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adults and 8 to 10 hours for teenagers.

But many people were getting far less sleep.

Young mum Danielle Wheatley gets about 5.5 hours of sleep a night with her two young boys Hunter, 4 and Rowan, 1 keeping her awake. Picture: David Caird

Mum of two Danielle Wheatley, 28, of Pakenham, sometimes gets as little as four and a half hours sleep.

She said she knew she should get more sleep but stayed awake so she could have some “me time.”

“Some nights, by the time I’m finished doing the washing and other tidying up, it’s 10:30 before I even sit down,” she said.

“I then stay up later just for some alone time.”

Shift worker Sharon Gray, 54, of Melton, said she was concerned about her sleep.

“I don’t think I sleep as well as I should. When I work night shifts, I only sleep for about 4 to 5 hours and end up needing a nap later on in the day to make up,” she said.

Baker Aaron Leckie, 21, combines his early morning job with being a dad to 15 month old daughter Violet.

“It is not always easy, especially when she joins my partner and myself in bed,” he said.

“I have a nap which carry me on to the evenings, that way I can spend some quality time with my family and my life isn’t just dominated by sleep and work.”

Student Harry Forbes, 17, of Strathmore, said he stayed up late on his electronic devices and doing homework.

“It’s counter-productive, staying up extremely late to do homework, getting barely enough sleep to function, and then falling into bed straight after school,” he said.



Age: 28

Suburb: Pakenham

Occupation: Mother of Hunter, 4 and Rowan, 1

Monday 5th June:

1.05am-8.31am (6 hours 10 minutes)

Tuesday 6th June:

2.00am-7.52am (5 hours 20 minutes)

Wednesday 7th June:

1.29am-7.54am (5 hours 57 minutes)

Thursday 8th June:

1.51am-8.06am (5 hours 37 minutes)

Friday 9th June:

1.59am-7.08am (4 hours 28 minutes)

Saturday 10th June:

1.21am — 7.58am (6 hours 4 minutes)

Sunday 11th June:

3.09am — 8.08am (4 hours 24 minutes)


Age: 54

Suburb: Melton

Occupation: Shift worker PCA nurse

Monday 5th June:

8.04am-1.25pm (4 hours 43 minutes)

Tuesday 6th June:

12.32am-8.42am (7 hours 19 minutes)

Wednesday 7th June:

1.31am — 9.11am (6 hours 30 minutes)

Thursday 8th June:

1.21am-8.04am (6 hours 6 minutes)

+ 3.40pm-6.54pm (2 hours 45 minutes)

Friday 9th June:

7.43am-1.16pm (5 hours 0 minutes)

+ 4.01pm-7.00pm (2 hours 49 minutes)

Saturday 10th June:

7.49am-1.07pm (4 hours 44 minutes)

Sunday 11th June:

12.34am-7.16 (5 hours 36 minutes)

Year 12 student Harry Forbes does not get enough sleep due to the large amount of study he does. Picture: Jake Nowakowski


Age: 17

Suburb: Somerville

Occupation: Year 12 student, plays recreational sport

Monday 5th June:

1.30am-7.41am (5 hours 36 minutes)

Tuesday 6th June:

1.50am-7.47am (5 hours 35 minutes)

Wednesday 7th June:

12.59am-8.26am (6 hours 56 minutes)

Thursday 8th June:

12.21am-8.42am (7 hours 22 minutes)

Friday 9th June:

1.54am-7.41am (5 hours 25 minutes)

Saturday 10th June:

1.23am-10.00am (7 hours 39 minutes)

Sunday 11th June:

1.21am-8.42am (6 hours 29 minutes)


Age: 21

Suburb: Melton West

Occupation: Baker, Father of one (15-month-old Violet)

Monday 5th June:

7.46pm-8.08am (11 hours 51 minutes)

Tuesday 6th June:

10.32pm-7.57am (9 hours 11 minutes)

Wednesday 7th June:

12.22am-8.35am (7 hours 50 minutes)

Thursday 8th June:

8.10pm-2.18am (5 hours 43 minutes)

+ 2.21pm-4.12pm (1 hour 47 minutes)

Friday 9th June:

7.52pm-2.17am (6 hours 8 minutes)

+ 1.44pm-3.21pm (1 hour 35 minutes)

Saturday 10th June:

7.37pm-2.29am (6 hours 44 minutes)

Sunday 11th June:

7.04pm-12.37am (5 hours 26 minutes)

+ 1.09pm — 4.18pm (3 hours 1 minute)


Advice by Dr Frank Cahill — Clinical psychologist specialising in insomnia


Have a worry session

Set aside 20 minutes to worry. Get a piece of paper and write down all your worries on the left hand side of the page and all the actions you are going to take to soothe the worries on the right hand side of the page. Draw a line beneath the list and tell yourself you will revisit the thoughts the next day.


Don’t focus on keeping a blank mind. Relive happy thoughts, ie a favourite holiday or memory, ect.


If anxious or intrusive thoughts crop up, acknowledge the thought and mentally visualise it leaving your mind. Ie, Put the anxious thought on a leaf and watch it travel down a stream or write it down on a piece of paper and tie it to the leg of a pigeon and watch it fly away.

Get out of bed

If 20-30 minutes have passed and you are still awake, get out of bed. Sit down and flip through a magazine or sit quietly with a glass of water for 10 — 15 minutes. Make sure not to use any electronics or turn on lights. When you return to bed, focus on drifting.


Sleep restriction

If you aren’t tired when you get to bed, go to bed later. Restricting the time you are in bed puts pressure on the amount of sleep you will get so can make it easier to fall asleep.

After a while, increase the time you are in bed by 15 minutes each night until you are getting the right amount of sleep.


Stop worrying about getting enough sleep

Many people lose sleep worrying about the events of the day or what will happen tomorrow. After a while, those anxious thoughts transform to worries about not getting enough sleep and whether you’ll be able to operate at full capacity the next day. Stop. Focus on relaxing.

Breathing techniques

Focus on your breath. Try the 4-7-8 technique. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven seconds then slowly release for eight seconds. This can help distract the mind from anxious thoughts.

Get a regular sleep routine

This will help provide the mind and body queues that it is time to sleep

Avoid technology before bed

Turn off all electronics an hour before sleep. iPads and iPhones have blue light technology which can disrupt melatonin production which can delay the onset of sleep.

Published in The Herald Sun: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/what-your-lack-of-sleep-is-doing-to-your-body/news-story/77995d0f8f31ff37c6ee409d198918e4

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