Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

Wake up to sleep problems

Edited by Jill Wright,

The sleep problems that beset an extraordinary number of Australians can begin quite early in life.

Psychologist Dr Sarah Blunden, head of paediatric sleep research at the Adelaide-based Appleton Institute, says behaviourally-based sleep problems occur in as many as 40 per cent of Australian toddlers. The institute even has a "Snooze for Kids" website.

US research suggests that the sleep duration of modern children and adolescents is significantly less than for previous generations.

You'd think that with two sleep research institutes - both of them in Adelaide - and for that matter a Sleep Health Foundation, Australians would be well aware of the importance of good sleep for mental and physical health,

But according to the Medical Journal of Australia, despite compelling evidence of its importance for good physical and mental health, and wide knowledge of the intrusion of modern technology on sleep patterns, minimal attention has been given to the need for healthy sleep.  And too many people subscribe to common myths about sleep.

Dr Till Roenneberg, at the University of Munich's Institute of Medical Psychology, has identified a phenomenon he calls "social jet lag" - disruption of our body's internal clock caused by the demands and temptations of modern life ... things like staying up all hours watching World Cup football matches for instance.

Many of us think we can catch up by sleeping in on weekends, but in fact the consequences of that are akin to flying from Melbourne to Perth every Friday night, and returning Monday mornings. 

People who do that routinely don't just end up with red-rimmed eyes. They are more likely to be overweight than people with healthier sleep patterns.

Chronic sleep problems can cause us to over-eat. Research indicates that they can be a factor in obesity, and the development of diabetes. Other consequences include changes in mood and increased sensitivity to pain, to say nothing of being more likely to have accidents.

If you are having trouble getting consistent good sleep, you might consider taking our new sleep management class, which runs over three Tuesday evening sessions from August 5.

What you will learn are evidence-based strategies and techniques to improve the quality and duration of your sleep. 

You will find that good sleep hygiene will increase your concentration and energy levels, and reduce fatigue and stress. 

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.