Are you in pursuit of living a healthier life? While you may be making concerted efforts with your diet and exercise, four experts from different areas of health agree, there's one thing that could be undoing it all: sleep.

In this week's episode of Take Life Back, Stacey Morrison speaks with experts in mental health, sport, nutrition and fatigue management who support one conclusion: the importance of good sleep is absolutely vital for your physical and mental health.

And it's something you can make improvements to reasonably instantly, starting tonight.

Follow these experts' top tips and you'll be sleeping well and seeing improvements in your nutrition and workout efforts in no time.


Abbie O'Rourke - nutritionist from Feel Fresh Nutrition

O'Rourke says if we get our sleep sorted first, it actually affects our appetite.

"If we're well rested and not really tired, we're less inclined to go out and get 'those foods' to create more energy."

She explains by getting a good night's sleep, we essentially create more time in our days.

"'Cause we're not tired and running through our schedules, we have more time to prepare a meal, or to make sure we grab food on the way out as opposed to trying to get an extra 10 minutes [of sleep] in the morning."

• Abbie's top tip: Set an alarm in the evenings

"How we set an alarm in the morning to get up in the day, we should actually do that in the evenings as well to tell yourself to wind down."

Sean Robinson – CEO, Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

Robinson says a lot of things can negatively impact our sleep and pushes for people to focus more attention on their sleeping routine.

"[sleep] is like the canary in the coal mine, if your sleep patterns start to change - either you're sleeping a lot less or you're sleeping a lot more - that can often be a sign that stress or anxiety or difficult feelings and distress are sort of starting to really have an impact on you."

To achieve a better sleep, he says creating "rituals" is key before you go to bed.

• Sean's top tip: Control screen time

"Whether looking at our social media on our phone or our tablet, or binge watching TV, it can be really bad for our sleep patterns."

He advises making a conscious effort to cut down time spent on screens, whether scrolling social media or binge watching TV.

"Having time at the end of the day to wind down, a good hour to not watch TV and start to really wind down. Maybe read a book instead of watching television."

Moss Burmester - former Olympic swimmer and Commonwealth Games gold medallist

Burmester explains sleep has played a vital role in his performance throughout his career. When waking up, he says you need to make sure your brain is awake too.

He asks: "As well as your physical state are you mentally clear when you get up in the morning?"

• Moss' Top tip: Conquer the morning

Burmester shared that early morning trainings before work meant he lost an hour of sleep, which he thought would make him tired. He found it did quite the opposite:

"It gave me more energy. It put me in a better frame of mind. I got up and therefore I started to eat cleaner cause I had to refuel my body."

Rachel Lehen – Fatigue Management Solutions consultant

Lehen says sleeping disorders need to be addressed, so the sleep we get is the best possible quality, even if the hours are limited.

Reasonably immediate fixes can be made by setting up your bedroom properly, not overstimulating yourself with screens or lights and making sure it's dark, to create a sleep oasis.

She says we should be, "thinking about sleep in the six hours before you go to bed, rather than just the last two minutes".

As importantly, you must ensure you're not wired on caffeine when it comes to getting yourself off to sleep.

"Sleep should be thought about throughout the day. Almost from the minute you wake up, start planning it," says Lehan.

• Rachel's Top tip: Know how much sleep you need

When you wake up and feel really good, work out how much sleep you got in order to feel that way. "Was that six hours, seven hours or eight hours?" asks Lehan.

Then you know that that's what you need in order to "feel fantastic the next day, then that's your benchmark".

Take into consideration what you have to do to ensure you consistently get that amount of time sleeping every night.

For more on the importance of sleeping well, listen to the full chat with Rachel here.
Key points
• You need sleep to heal, repair and grow
• What a lack of sleep is doing to your waist line
• What can you actually do if you're a troubled sleeper?

Take Life Back: Listen to Stacey Morrison's full interview on the top tips for sleep here: