Sleep expert Gerard Kennedy shares advice to get a good night's sleep

Federation University Professor Gerard Kennedy.
Federation University Professor Gerard Kennedy.

Additional stress associated with COVID-19 is likely leading to a deteriorating quality of sleep for thousands of people in Ballarat.

Researchers estimate 10 per cent of the population suffers insomnia in regular times, meaning they struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep.

Sleep expert and Federation University professor Gerard Kennedy says insomnia is a byproduct of stressful times, but can be treated well with psychological and behavioural techniques.

He shared advice to help people improve their quality of sleep during a Compassionate Ballarat webinar on Wednesday.

People get very frustrated when they are lying in bed not sleeping.

Professor Gerard Kennedy

Professor Kennedy said the best treatment for sleep was to have a regular sleeping and waking pattern.

"In its strictest form, we ask people to go to bed at 12pm and get up at 6am," he said.

"You have to do it for five to six weeks for it to work... As sleep improves we can slowly add more time in bed."

Professor Kennedy said sleep should only happen in bed, not during naps on the couch.

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If you are struggling to sleep in bed, get up and go to another room for a while and then return to bed when sleepy.

"Limit the amount of time you are in bed not sleeping. People get very frustrated when they are lying in bed not sleeping," he said.

Professor Kennedy said pre-bedtime behaviour should be one to two hours spent unwinding physically and mentally, perhaps watching television, reading a book, talking to family or playing a game.

He suggested avoiding exercise or computer work late at night and not eating or drinking too much close to bed time.

Professor Kennedy said relaxation and mindfulness techniques could be used to help fall asleep, including slowing breathing, progressive muscular relaxation and visual imagery.

"You might consider downloading mindfulness apps and you can play them as you go to sleep," he said.

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Frequent exercise and a healthy diet is also important to maintaining quality sleep, according to Professor Kennedy.

He said medication and pain could also contribute to sleep troubles and this could be discussed with general practitioners.

Many employees have reported working from home arrangements during COVID-19 had allowed extra time for sleep in the mornings.

It is expected some employers may consider allowing staff to work from home more often post COVID-19.

Professor Kennedy's public presentation on Wednesday was part of a weekly webinar series that provides practical advice and support to residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Next week's Compassionate Ballarat webinar will provide information on nutrition for immunity.

Visit compassionateballarat.com.au/whats-on for information on how to join the webinar.


This story Feeling tired? Here are some handy tips to sleep better first appeared on The Courier.