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COVID — 19 impacts include poorer sleep for our younger generations

Patrick Tadros, March 17, 2021 7:00PM News Corp Australia Network

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Young Australians have reported poor sleep during the coronavirus pandemic. media_cameraYoung Australians have reported poor sleep during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Young generations of Australians have reported poorer sleep quality during COVID-19, says Sleep Health Foundation chair Professor Shantha Rajaratnam.

“In 2020, we saw young people (18-35 years) were disproportionately* affected in terms of adverse* mental health and sleep symptoms,” he said.

“Factors such as increased stress and loneliness impact sleep (and) may cause symptoms of insomnia*, which causes psychological distress and impaired* daytime functioning.”

Blackmores research shows that 78 per cent of Gen Z and Millennials say stress often affects the quality of their sleep.

Elizabeth Bisset, 32, reached out to sleep scientist Dr Carmel Harrington when her sleep suffered once the pandemic began.

“I began logging my night-time routine and sleep in a journal so (Dr Harrington) could assess my sleep pattern and behaviours,” Bisset said.

“My new wind-down routines include switching off all technology one hour before bed and a hot shower followed by relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.

“I would encourage anyone struggling with their sleep quality to not leave it untreated. I experienced first-hand just how important a good night’s sleep is to my health.”

Dr Harrington said small habits often add to common sleep problems, such as eating or exercising before bed or taking your phone to bed. She says small changes can help young Australians sleep better.

“If you live in a noisy area, try earplugs or (something like) a fan, which will reduce your sense of ambient* noise,” she said.

“Bedside lamps with a red hue are best and use blockout blinds to reduce external light.”

Essential oils may also help and good nutrition and exercise have been proven to improve sleep quality.

Blackmores research also says that 65 per cent of Australians have invested in products to try and get better sleep, the most common being new bedding and a special pillow.

SIDS Researcher media_cameraDr Carmel Harrington, pictured at The Children’s Hospital in Westmead in 2018, is one of Australia’s leading sleep scientists. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Sleep Awareness Week runs March 14-20. The Sleep Health Foundation website offers tips for getting a good rest, including removing clocks from the bedroom.

Good eating can also mean healthy sleeping. Nutritionist Kathleen Alleume shared her tips for breakfast foods and ingredients that may help ease restlessness at night.

Go for fibrous* carbohydrates like rolled oats or wholegrain breads, or if you’re on the go, a fibre-rich breakfast bake plus a piece of fruit and glass of water.

All nuts, especially almonds, are rich in magnesium and may help keep muscles from getting tired and aching. Nuts may also help stabilise blood sugar levels to avoid energy crashes during the day.

Bananas provide a natural source of potassium – an important mineral which helps everyday functioning of the nervous system.

Poaching or scrambling eggs at breakfast delivers a healthy hit of protein and the amino acid tryptophan, which tends to increase serotonin* levels.

Finally, natural yoghurt contains probiotics that can help fix the balance between good versus bad bacteria – good for sleep and it tastes great too.

media_cameraNatural yoghurt can deliver a good hit of probiotics to fix the balance between good and bad bacteria.

GLOSSARY

  • disproportionate: too large or small in comparison to something else
  • adverse: harmful or unfavourable
  • insomnia: a sleep disorder that makes it hard to fall and/or stay asleep
  • impaired: weakened or damaged
  • ambient: related to your immediate surroundings
  • fibrous: high in fibre
  • serotonin: made by the body’s nerve cells, it stabilises our mood, wellbeing and happiness

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is Elizabeth Bisset’s new night-time routine?
  2. Name three small habits Dr Harrington says can impact sleep.
  3. What are some changes that Dr Harrington suggests to improve sleep?
  4. What percentage of Gen Z and Millennials say stress often affects the quality of their sleep?
  5. What percentage of Australians have invested in products to try and get better sleep and what are the most common items?

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Design a Poster
Design a poster for Sleep Awareness Week. The purpose of your poster is to help other kids understand why sleep is so important for their health and wellbeing.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education, Science, Visual Communication Design

2. Extension
Imagine that your school is going to have a ‘Go To Sleep Day’ as part of Sleep Awareness Week. The purpose of the day is to help students understand why sleep is so important and to teach everyone ways to make sure they get a good night’s sleep.

Create three activities that you think would be great to include on the day. Write a detailed plan for each activity.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education, Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).

How many nouns can you find in the article? Can you sort them into places, names and time?

Pick three nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.

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