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Sleep and a Healthy Mind



photo credit: Yaaaawn via photopin (license)

“Sleep is vital to your health. Not only is our daily functioning compromised when we have a lack of sleep, but it can also lead to long-term health problems.”

Zoe Markopoulos – Psychologist (MAPS, CEDP)

Sleep problems are common in today’s busy world, as sleep is often one of the first areas that tend to be neglected. However, adequate sleep maintains brain function and enables the body to operate at an optimal capacity throughout the day.

So, what exactly is sleep?

According to Psychologist Zoe Markpoulos, sleep is not a fixed state of consciousness, as the brain moves through distinct stages of sleep repeatedly every night. The two broad categories of sleep are Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM).

REM sleep, which occurs approximately once every 90 to 120 minutes, constitutes as one-quarter of our night’s sleep and is where most dreaming toccurs. While NREM sleep is collectively sleep stages 1-3. Each stage has distinct characteristics. For example, drowsiness occurs in stage 1 and relaxation of muscles in stage 3.

How do you create good sleep habits?

Good sleep habits are often referred to as good sleep hygiene. While most of these are common sense, we often do not actively think about them.

Good sleep hygiene can involve:

• Following a sleep schedule of the same bed and wake time to help regulate your body’s clock.
• Practicing a relax bedtime ritual to help separate your sleep time from activities that cause excitement or stress.
• Avoiding going to bed on a full stomach, but not hungry either.
• Going to another room if you are not asleep after 20 minutes in bed, until you feel tired again and then go back to bed.
• Evaluating your room (e.g. removing distractions like a TV, ensuring the temperature is cool and free from any light or noise).
• Getting sunlight during the day.
• Obtaining 7-9 hours of sleep a day.
• Avoiding naps, especially in the afternoon.
• Exercising daily, at any time but not at the expense of your sleep.
• Sleeping on a comfortable mattress and pillow.

Image - Z MarkopoulosIn her professional practice, Zoe Markopoulos applies her psychological and educational expertise in the effective delivery of psychology services to children and families. She recognises the importance of fostering resilience and addressing the social, emotional and educational needs of students. Zoe predominately aligns her work with the principles and techniques of cognitive behaviour therapy, positive psychology and mindfulness. A significant part of her work involves psychological counselling and assessment, developing and implementing evidence-based programs, and consultation. Zoe is also interested in self-care activities to help maintain physical, mental and emotional health.

Zoe has contributed to academic publications focused on coping, bullying, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, children and families. She is a member of the Australian Psychologist Society and is regularly involved with the College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists (Victoria), as a committee member. Zoe is currently completing the Psychology Board of Australia Registrar Program in Educational and Developmental Psychology.

Disclaimer: The information published in this column is based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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