Whether you’re someone who always wakes up in the middle of the night or a person who struggles with daily brain fog, a sleep expert has revealed what your bed time habits really say about you.
Sydney-based Olivia Arezzolo said our sleep habits really do affect our performance in the workplace and at home, and if you find yourself unable to concentrate in the office it will always almost indicate bad sleep.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Olivia explained what five different sleep habits indicate, and how you can improve your shut-eye with a bedtime routine and wind-down time.
1. What does it mean if you struggle to get to sleep?
While we all have nights where it’s difficult to get to sleep, if you have these frequently or on consecutive nights, Olivia said you might want to re-think your sleep.
‘This could mean that you’re doing insufficient healthy sleep activities like you don’t have a relaxing routine the hour before you go to bed,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
The expert said that struggling to get to sleep could also indicate that you are doing ‘sleep sabotaging’ activities – like watching TV in bed, napping too late in the day or having caffeine or chocolate in the afternoon.
‘In the absence of light, you produce melatonin — helping you stay asleep. In the presence of light, you produce cortisol — helping you stay awake. Whilst this is ideal during the day, it’s obviously not in the evening,’ Olivia explained.
Try to limit time on your phone in the evenings, and if it persists, she said you might want to speak to a professional and consider a hormonal imbalance, ‘driven by conditions such as PCOS, an overactive thyroid, depression and anxiety disorders’.
What to try: Put down your phone at least one hour before bed.
2. What does it mean if you wake up in the middle of the night?
If you’re someone who wakes up in the middle of the night, Olivia said stress might be to blame.
The effects of feeling anxious or having trouble disconnecting from work can carry on way past the point when you doze off, due to the production of cortisol which keeps us awake.
‘Cortisol levels naturally spike due to your circadian rhythm, which means if you’re stressed out and have higher than normal levels of cortisol (or if you’re going through menopause), you’ll wake up,’ Olivia said.
The expert said it could also mean you’re drinking too much alcohol:
‘Alcohol is a sedative and at around 3am, you have a rebound effect – waking you up with a flurry of thoughts,’ Olivia said.
What you can try: Cut down on your drinking and try to reduce your day-to-day stress.
3. What does it mean if you power through on just a few hours’ sleep?
While many people are cocky about how little sleep they need to do their job, Olivia explained that the concept of ‘powering through’ is largely a fallacy.
‘Sleep deprivation impairs the frontal lobe, responsible for decision making, judgement and mental productivity,’ she said.
For this reason, even if you think you’re ‘powering through’ just fine, Olivia said that you are likely to be slower as a result of too little sleep.
You could also make mistakes and be inefficient.
‘Because your judgement is impaired, you won’t always realise that you’re being inefficient,’ Olivia said.
You might be sending emails too quickly or letting important tasks fall through the cracks.
What to try: Prioritise your sleep and aim for between seven and nine hours.
4. What does it mean if you wake up feeling foggy regardless of how much sleep you get?
Brain fog is common for thousands of people the world over – and it often comes back to your sleep and hydration.
‘Brain fog can be attributed to a number of factors: dehydration is one that’s often overlooked for example,’ Olivia said.
‘Studies show that just a two per cent drop in hydration levels will impair mental clarity.’
According to the expert, mental clarity comes ‘when your brain enters slow wave sleep and detoxifies from beta amyloid, which causes memory loss and confusion’.
‘As the brain has no lymphatic system, it relies on deep sleep to clear away such neurotoxins – and studies show 70 per cent of this occurs in deep sleep,’ Olivia said.
What you can try: Drink more water during the day.
5. What does it mean if you wake up feeling rested?
If you’re one of the lucky people who wakes up most mornings feeling well-rested and as if you’ve had adequate sleep, Olivia said this is great news.
‘You are clearly doing sufficient healthy sleep activities, like blocking blue light, sipping on chamomile tea and limiting screen time before bed,’ she said.
Prioritising your sleep is a form of self-care, so if you’re not doing it, it can reflect a ‘poor sense of self-value’.
Olivia said it’s vital that we realise the importance of sleep for our health, wealth and happiness.
What you can try: Continue to implement a bedtime routine each night.