Sleep is one of those things – if it isn’t good, it’s really, really bad. Whether you’ve suffered with ongoing insomnia or sometimes fall victim to a restless night, you’ll know the impacts bad sleep can have on your daily routine.

Having an occasional night with little to no sleep won’t necessarily impact your daily functioning, however, if you are part of the 10-15% of the adult population that has persistent sleeping difficulties, then sleep (or lack thereof) is likely to cause problems in one or more areas of your life.

We spoke to three different health experts – an accredited nutritionist, a clinical psychologist and a lawyer-turned-naturopath – about their top tips for busy parents hoping to ensure some good shut eye.

Tracie Connor
Accredited nutritionist

  1. Make it a priority to sleep! Plan your night’s around getting a good night’s sleep, and limit any outside disturbances when it’s time for bed. If people knew how important sleep is for our overall health, performance and happiness, I believe they would make it a priority.
  2. Stick to a routine as much as possible, and try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. For those of us with young kids, I understand that a good night’s sleep can be rare. However, making time to ‘switch off’ will promote resilience in you for the challenges that arise with parenting.
  3. Nurture yourself with wholesome, protein-rich foods – including a protein-rich meal approximately two to three hours before bed provides the perfect nutrients for rest.
  4. As with food, the drinks we consume have a great impact on our quality of sleep. Limiting alcohol, sugary drinks and caffeine at least two hours before bed assists with achieving a deeper sleep.
  5. Switch off screens at least one hour before bed – exposure to blue light before bed interrupts the production of a hormone called Melatonin, which aids us to fall asleep.
  6. Find ways to relax before bed, like sipping an herbal tea, taking a warm bath or shower, stretching, meditating or reading a book.
  7. Consider whether a hormone imbalance may be causing your sleep issues, and consult a doctor if you think this might be the case.
  8. Exercise helps our sleep patterns in a few ways, including the release of particular hormones that promote sleep/rest, as well as leading to a drop in body temperature (post-exercise) that promotes sleep. Find exercises that you enjoy!
  9. Monitor your stress, and find ways to stress less. Stress impacts us physically and mentally. When stressed, it’s very difficult to achieve a sound sleep and in most cases causes insomnia.
  10. Address the problem as quickly as you can. Poor sleep impacts our health in many ways, acutely with our mental health and physical lethargy, lack of focus and limited motivation. Long term effects include chronic fatigue, hormone and digestive imbalance, weight gain and more.


Dr Lillian Nejad
Clinical psychologist and publisher of sleep self-help guide, ‘LIFEBLOCKERS: The Sleep Edition’

  1. Create an optimal sleep environment – make sure the room is dark, you have a comfortable mattress and pillow and ensure your room is the ideal temperature (17-20 degrees).
  2. During the day, stop napping, reduce or cut out caffeine and alcohol, and expend energy with physical activity.
  3. Develop bedtime rituals that help you relax and unwind – listen to soothing music, wash your face, read a few pages of a book, do gentle stretches or a brief meditation. With daily repetition, your routine will become a cue for your body to prepare it for sleep.
  4. Wake up at the same time every day: work out when you want to wake up and then count back your optimal number of hours of sleep – that’s your bedtime. Try not to vary your bedtime too much during weekends and holidays and remember for optimal sleep, wake up at the same time no matter what time you go to bed.
  5. Sleep when you’re sleepy! There is a natural sleep-wake cycle of about sixty to ninety minutes so if you delay sleep when you are feeling sleepy, you may miss your window. Bottom line: when you feel sleepy, go straight to bed!
  6. Have an awake routine: Can’t sleep? Have a routine for that too. If you can’t fall asleep or you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, rather than laying there stewing, develop a calming routine that will be at the very least relaxing, and at best, will help you fall back asleep.
  7. Manage your sleep worries so that you’re not thinking unhelpful thoughts at bedtime like, “I’ll never get to sleep” or “I won’t be able to function without sleep”. But how can we do this? Remember, your thoughts are not facts. Putting yourself under pressure is the opposite of the mindset that prepares you for falling and staying asleep. Tell yourself that you can cope whether you get sleep or not – you may not be at your best, but if you look at your ability to cope in the past, you will most likely find that you have been able to function to an adequate degree in at least some areas in your life.  Replace the thought with something like “I am working on getting a better night’s sleep.” The belief that you will be able to sleep, or sleep self-efficacy, is linked to lower severity of insomnia and better outcomes in treatment.
  8. Remember: resting calmly in bed is almost as restorative as sleep. Keeping this in mind will take the pressure off and put you a better position to have a good night’s sleep.
  9. Manage and treat problems and disorders that can affect your sleep. If you worry a lot just before bed, try making a specific time to worry and problem-solve during the day so your mind can be more relaxed when you’re trying to fall asleep. Use relaxation exercises like Progressive Muscle Relaxation before bed to reduce stress and relax your body. If you think your sleep is related to anxiety or depression, seek professional help to treat these conditions. Certain medications and substances can also interfere with sleep. Consult your GP regarding the common side effects of prescribed medications and seek professional help if you think you are dependent on any substances that commonly interfere with sleep like alcohol, benzodiazepines (like Valium) or amphetamines.
  10. Use apps during the day that will lower your overall level of stress or anxiety, that is likely to interfere with your sleep. Try Smiling Mind, Headspace, InsightTimer and Calm, or CBTi or Sleepio specifically for insomnia.


Chantel Ryan
Lawyer-turned-naturopath, health coach and corporate wellness consultant, and ex-insomniac

  1. Eat within a 10-11-hour window. Have your first meal after sunrise (or around 8am) and your last meal before sunset (by 7pm). Eating within this window can help support natural circadian rhythms. At the very least, try to have dinner 2-3 hours before you go to bed – digesting food takes a lot of work, and you want your body to be in the best possible position to heal while you sleep. Get the digesting done before you rest.
  2. Avoid screens including mobile phones, tablets, laptops, TV, computer for at least one or two hours before bed. Research shows blue light emitted from these devices can delay sleep onset and affect our overall circadian rhythm. Dim your lights before bed as much as you can, or use candles, as too much light stops your body from producing melatonin (the sleep hormone).
  3. Boost natural light exposure by aiming to spend at least 30 minutes outside in natural light each day, preferably in the morning. Eat breakfast outdoors or near a window, go for a walk on your lunch break, open your blinds upon waking – this will boost your melatonin production and help adjust your circadian rhythms.
  4. Aim to sleep the recommended amount for a restorative sleep (9-11 for school aged children; 8-10 for teenagers and 7-8 for adults) and pay attention to the times you naturally feel sleepy and when you naturally wake up.
  5. Limit sound and light as much as possible – wear earplugs if necessary, and a silk eye mask to block sound and light.
  6. Keep your sleep space tidy, dark and cool – air should be able to circulate, bedding should be breathable and made of natural fibres and the temperature of the room should be around 19 degrees Celsius.
  7. Avoid alcohol and other stimulating foods and drinks before bed – caffeine and similar stimulants are best had early in the day. Opt for calming night time teas containing relaxing herbs like chamomile, lavender and passionflower instead.
  8. Avoid sleeping in or catching up on sleep over the weekend – research indicates that a sleep routine that is adhered to all days of the week is best. Obviously, there will be events that cause you to have late nights occasionally, but really try to stick to a routine where possible.
  9. Engage in quiet, non-brain intensive activities at least one hour before bed – read a book, meditate, knit, have a shower… If you have things on your mind that are likely to keep you up at night, use this opportunity to write things down or make your to-do list so you can shut off your brain and relax before bed.
  10. Turn your phone on ‘airplane’ mode and get a power timer to switch the WiFi off overnight (between, say, 11:30pm and 6am). Electromagnetic fields, which are generated from mobile phones, power lines and other transmitters, have been shown to affect sleep, so avoiding these during the night is recommended.




haven is all about family, life and style in Brisbane's inner city suburbs, the Gold Coast, south to Byron Bay. We have been keeping parents in the know for over eight years, with fun, fresh and helpful stories that they can take tips from or treasure in their own library.