Woman asleep in white bed in wood paneled room

Wake Up Happy

Sleeping well is the most underrated and overlooked thing you can do for your health and fitness. Not only does a good night’s sleep help you feel better and get through your day more easily, it also keeps your body systems ticking along in tip top shape.

According to Sleep: A Health Imperative, published in the journal Sleep, 37.1% of American adults experiencing inadequate sleep; the number of Australian adults is similar at 39.8%, according to a report commissioned by the Australian Sleep Health Foundation.

That’s a lot of people not sleeping well, or enough. And as long as daily functioning isn’t impacted, why not spend more time on work and play? Well, because eventually sleep deficits can catch up to you. And it’s not just feeling it (things like simple tiredness, poor daytime function, and microsleeps) — it’s also your health.

Most research shows that 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night is what will keep you healthy. Less than 6 hours per night will drive a cumulative sleep deficit that stresses cells and changes how the brain (and therefore the body) functions. In turn, this changes the way your metabolism, immune system, and nervous system work. This sets the stage for:

  • Increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary heart disease, and possibly stroke.
  • Increased risk of obesity, possibly due to changes in hormonal control of hunger signals, as well as decreased glucose tolerance and development of type 2 diabetes.
  • Increased risk of numerous types of cancer, including break, colon or colorectal, and prostate, which may be linked to an overall increase in cell damage throughout the body.

Ok, so it’s not good for you – you know that. Does that mean it’s time to make an appointment to see the doc for some sleeping tablets?

Nah. For most of us, good sleep is a matter of making some easy lifestyle adjustments. Start with the easiest and work your way through the list as you can or need to. Everything you do will help!

  • Make your room dark. Blackout blinds will limit light from outside. Inside the room, minimize any lights (from electronics or other devices), and a trusty eye mask will help if your partner insists on reading in bed.
  • Keep your room cool. Research suggests that optimal room temperatures range from 16-18°C, or 60-67°F, since that’s neither too cold (keeping you from falling asleep), nor too warm (causing restless sleep).
  • Make your bed comfortable. Find a mattress that gives you enough space, support, and comfort. The best mattress and pillow will allow you to stay in good posture while you sleep: with your head, neck, and spine in alignment. A mattress that is too soft will cause you to slouch, and a mattress that is too firm will put pressure on contact points like hips or shoulders. Pillows should allow your head and neck to stay in a straight(ish) line with your spine in your preferred sleeping position.
  • Make your room quiet. Loud or unusual noises will disturb your sleep, which you probably already know! If you live somewhere where this is common, using a white noise player (via specialized machines or simply any number of Youtube tracks) can help mask outside noises and lull you to sleep.
  • Develop a bedtime routine. When you create a routine around the tasks of going to bed, it helps your brain recognize that it’s time to wind down. This makes it easier to fall asleep, especially if your routine is a relaxing one.
  • Make your room a haven. Bedrooms should not be multi-purpose rooms; sleep scientists recommend only using your bedroom for sleep and sex. Choose paint, sheets, curtains or blinds, and other decor that you love, and going to sleep will be the best part of your day!
Want more information? Try these references:
Sleep – A Health Imperative, from the academic journal Sleep  https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/35/6/727/2709360#124879694
The Sleep Solution, by Dr. W. Chris Winter https://www.amazon.com/Sleep-Solution-Why-Your-Broken/dp/0399583602
Asleep On The Job: A Sleep Health Foundation Report http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/files/Asleep_on_the_job/Asleep_on_the_Job_SHF_report-WEB_small.pdf

Dog sleeping soundly on a bed

Quick tips for a good night’s sleep

It’s easy to just fall into bed at the end of the evening, but a few simple tips can take you from dozing to dreaming.

While much of the HealthFit focus is on exercise, movement, and healthy eating, you can make all the right choices when you’re awake and still not make great progress if you aren’t getting quality sleep. Poor sleep has been definitively linked to hormonal and metabolic disturbances, and is associated with a number of cardiovascular, metabolic, and psychiatric disease states. Also (not surprisingly), poor quality sleep can lead to a next-day impact on levels of sleepiness, mental performance, mood, patience, and general wellbeing. If you’re finding that you aren’t waking up well-rested, or that you have high levels of fatigue day after day, try the tips below to boost your sleep quality literally overnight!

Black out your bedroom. While it might not be possible to completely black out your bedroom, minimizing light sources can make a big difference to your sleep quality. Close the blinds or curtains as much as possible, and minimize electronics in the room. Even though they are small, the blinking lights on your phone, TV, clock, or other electronics can still disrupt your sleep. If you can’t move your devices, try covering their lights with a bit of tape, or throwing a towel over them at night. An eyemask is also a good option for keeping out the light.

“Goldilocks” it: Keep your room temperature just right. Not too cold, not too hot. Research has shown that the best temperatures to sleep at range between 60° to 67° F, or about 16° to 19° C. Keep an extra blanket nearby as well, as you may find that you cool off substantially in the middle of the night.

Keep your bedroom quiet. You may feel like you can sleep well regardless of noise levels. Your brain doesn’t handle noise very well though! Even relatively quiet noises at night can lift the brain out of deeper sleep levels, in turn decreasing REM. Some research has shown sound-reducing tools like earplugs, and sound masking tools like white noise, can improve sleep quality in noisy environments, though there is also evidence that even white noise can be disruptive to sleep. As always, stick with what works for you.

Stick with a sleep pattern. From a biochemical perspective, your body likes a routine. Production of the hormones and biochemicals that prepare your body to sleep can adapt to long-term changes in sleeping patterns, but if there’s no pattern at all, your body won’t be preparing for sleep at its best. (To start your day well, try the same wake-up time as well, as your body also prepares for waking with biochemical fluctuations.)

If you try any of these tips, or have another that helps you get restful, satisfying sleep, please share in the comments! Sleep tight!


Small Win Saturday: Finding Friends Leads To Success!

Small wins are the little things that give us a (big) boost, and lots of small wins add up to big changes and powerful breakthroughs. Small Win Saturdays are where we share a tiny-but-awesome thing that happened to a HealthFitter or a HealthFit coach in the last week. Try it out for your a mental or physical boost, or share own your small win in the comments!

Finding Friends

A HealthFit Coaching client who has been working hard at making a morning walk part of her daily routine had a great boost this week. She was on her usual route along the Coronation Drive section of Brisbane’s Bicentennial Bikeway when she ran into some friends who were finishing a similar walk. She joined them a few days later and said that she’s now walking with them a two to three times per week. She looks forward to it so much more now that she’s walking with them regularly, and has noted that she’s even going farther than she thought she could handle – and is handling it really well! Small wins are big wins!

Support in healthy choices makes them so much easier to make. If you’re struggling to cement a healthy habit, ask a friend to join you to make the going a little less tough.


Small wins are the little things that give us a (big) boost, and lots of small wins add up to big changes and powerful breakthroughs. Small Win Saturdays are where we share a tiny-but-awesome thing that happened to a HealthFitter or a HealthFit coach in the last week. Try it out for your a mental or physical boost, or share own your small win in the comments!

Deep Sleep Music on YouTube

I often struggle to get my brain to shut down in the evening so I can fall asleep. Since finding it earlier this week though, I’ve been able to stop my brain in it’s tracks. This sleep-sounds track has quickly become my sure-fire way to calm down, switch off, and get some shut eye. It’s gentle and unobtrusive, and I can focus on it without getting wrapped up in it. With this on, I drop off in minutes.

As we prepare to sleep, our brains generally decent through four stages of electrical activity from highly active to less active. The final state of low-level activity is the delta wave state, which is associated with deep sleep and dreaming.

This music is designed to help you achieve delta wave state. This particular track is about three hours long. As a norm, your brain becomes accustomed to noises, so it’s likely that you won’t actually hear the whole track. But it’s great to help you relax and kick that sleeplessness and insomnia to the curb. Small wins can be big wins!

Small Win Saturday: Free Deep Sleep Music