sleep tips
Credit: Hal Mathewson/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

On social media Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow are at war on sleep. Specifically, who can get a ‘perfect’ night of sleep. Meanwhile, Australia is in a sleep crisis. According to a study conducted by The Body Shop, a third (34 percent) of Australians are only sleeping up to six hours in a typical night and less than a fifth of people are waking up feeling refreshed. That could have something to do with just over a quarter of people who don’t have a consistent sleep routine.

To battle these growing trends The Body Shop has partnered with sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo and Ovolo Hotels to create the Sleep Deep Experience, a unique stay at Ovolo Woolloomooloo, available from August 11 to 14. Designed for individuals, highlights from the experience include a personalised 1:1 sleep consultation with Arezzolo, a calming sleep-inducing sound-bath meditation by Sydney-based Field of Sound and a sleep-enhancing dinner designed in partnership with Olivia and Ovolo’s chefs. The experience coincides with the launch of The Body Shop Wellness Range which features a four-step routine which is clinically proven by the European Sleep Center to help you sleep better.

In the lead up to the exclusive experience, we tapped Arezzolo with a few more questions about sleep and how we can achieve a little more shut-eye.

GRAZIA: Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow are obsessed with not only tracking their sleep, but boasting it to the world. Do you believe that has had a negative effect on our relationship with sleep?

Olivia Arezzolo: “Sleep tracking can be helpful; however, it can also be harmful. On the plus side, sleep tracking encourages us to be mindful of our sleep habits, reminding us of the connection between what we do before bed and the quality of sleep that night. On the other side of the coin, sleep tracking can get obsessive – we focus solely on the numbers and rely on them to indicate our entire sleep health, rather than asking ourselves about the subjective experience.

“As a result, if we, according to our sleep data, have a ‘bad’ night’s sleep, and we cannot explain why, it can lead to increased anxiety – which may in part, explain why a fifth (19 percent) of Aussies are anxious about the amount of sleep they get, according to a 2022 Australian study by The Body Shop.”

What do you believe are the biggest factors to a sleep deprived country?

OA: “Blue light is the number one culprit – and with the omnipresence of technology, we have the odds stacked against us. Essentially, light controls the circadian rhythm: when we are exposed to it through our devices or simply our household lighting, it suppresses sleepiness hormone melatonin, which otherwise helps us fall and stay asleep.

“Further to that, stress has a major impact too, especially for women who statistically have higher levels of stress and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. This can in part explain why The Body Shop’s 2022 Sleep Study uncovered that men sleep more than women: 6.53 hours compared to 6.42 hours.”

Credit: Supplied
What foods and/or drinks should people avoid for a better night of sleep?

OA: “When it comes to getting a better night’s sleep, without a doubt caffeine is one of our biggest sleep sabotaging drinks! After 12pm, it should be avoided completely – no coffee, no black tea, no cola drinks, no energy drinks.

“Sugar is another major problem, and correlates with shorter, lower quality sleep; as is excessive saturated fat – as found in fried foods, processed meats, pastries, pies and creamy desserts. Instead, for drinks, opt for a decaf tea or coffee.

“Food wise, at mealtimes I advise a high protein, low sugar option with whole foods – such as a chicken soup with green veggies and quinoa. Chicken is rich in the protein subunit tryptophan, which is converted to sleepiness hormone melatonin. Green veggies such as kale provide a wealth of nutrients necessary for optimal sleep – such as B vitamins, vitamin C and calcium. Lastly, quinoa provides low GI, slow-release carbohydrates, which helps the body convert tryptophan to melatonin overnight; as well as a decadent dose of magnesium, helping us feel more relaxed.”

What are the consequences of not enough sleep?

OA: “Alongside feeling absolutely awful, insufficient sleep has an incredibly detrimental effect on our physical, emotional and cognitive wellbeing: a 2010 American study found that getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night is correlated with weight gain, diabetes, obesity, cancer, immune deficiency, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease; plus, mental health conditions anxiety, depression, and even suicide.

“On the other hand, quality sleep – as signified by sufficient slow wave and REM sleep (ideally, 20 percent and 25 percent of your total sleep time), can help us feel and look our best: 70 percent of human growth hormone is produced in slow wave sleep, which is the key hormone responsible for cellular repair – enabling us to feel rested and recharged physically. Similarly, this hormone is a catalyst for collagen production, which means that by optimising out slow wave sleep, we optimise our collagen production, and therefore optimise our skin health.

“Mentally, slow wave sleep and REM sleep (both deep sleep stages) are correlated with memory consolidation – enabling us to retain information learnt the previous day and learn more information the following day.

“Finally, for our emotional wellbeing, REM sleep in particular is key: during this sleep stage we dream, which is understood to help us reduce feelings of negativity attached to past experiences. That theory of “sleep on it – you’ll feel better in the morning” is not just a myth – it’s the consequence of sufficient REM sleep.

“All in all, this evidence highlights the importance of quality sleep, and reinforces why we, as a nation, need to ensure we are taking practical and science-based steps towards getting our best night’s sleep – each and every night.”

Why do scents such as lavender assist in falling asleep?

OA: “Lavender is an absolute weapon, helping to relax the central nervous system so we feel more at ease. Given that anxiety is one of the main factors keeping us up at night – recall this is the case for one in every five Aussies – we need to integrate lavender into our bedtime routine as much as possible.Vetiver also acts in a similar way in that it down regulates the sympathetic nervous system, so we feel calmer.

“As a result, I am a big fan of products which incorporate these two aromas. The Body Shop’s new Sleep range offers a relaxing hair and body wash, a body cream, pillow mist and essential oil blend for pulse points.

“Reflectively, this allows us to be immersed within the healing, calming fragrance throughout our bedtime routine – be it in the shower or when we hop into bed. Especially for those who find it hard to switch off or are waking through the night, this will help facilitate an easier night sleep – think falling asleep faster, waking up less and getting more slow wave, deep sleep.”

Credit: Supplied
Is it true that we can never “catch up” on sleep?

OA: “Yes and no. No because the consequences of sleep deprivation – such as impaired concentration, memory, fatigue and anxiety – begin the following morning. That said, when we restore our sleep to what it needs to be – sufficient quality and quantity – these factors subside.

Can a daytime nap be beneficial or are we just ruining our body clock?

OA: “A daytime nap can be beneficial – it can provide us a much needed second wind and an opportunity to catch up on (some) sleep. That said, it needs to follow my Perfect Nap Plan (PNP) to avoid problems sleeping that night. Specifically, it needs to be a) kept short – no longer than 30 minutes; b) kept dark – using an eye mask; and c) kept early – I recommend finishing the nap before 3:30.”