Healthy Sleep: What role can a health retreat play?
Health retreats are a good place to learn new skills for maintaining health and put new healthy habits in place, and therefore an ideal place to work on sleep. As a sleep physician, I’m expert in diagnosing and managing sleep disorders. Health retreats have expertise in wellness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and habits. These complementary areas of expertise, mean that working together we can help people achieve healthy sleep. I’m fortunate to work with the team at Elysia Wellness Retreat on optimising sleep for their guests.
Over the last 8 years I’ve learnt a lot about integrating health and wellness in to the management of sleep problems. I’ve been able to focus on promoting healthy sleep in addition to managing sleep disorders. I’ve also realised the importance of being a strong advocate for healthy sleep in modern society, which has directed my research, teaching and messages about sleep.
What are the keys to healthy sleep?
As a specialist sleep physician, with years of experience managing people with sleep problems, I feel there are four main components to healthy sleep:
- Wellness: is a state of optimal well-being wherein you strive to maximise your individual potential. Wellness encompasses both mental and physical wellness across a range of domains.
- Maintaining good general health: Sleep acts as a barometer of physical and mental health, and can often be the first sign that something is not right with your health. So, to sleep well, your physical and mental health needs to be optimal. This includes aspects such as physical fitness, nutrition and stress management, as well as managing any health conditions you may have.
- Thinking & behaving appropriately around sleep: Once people begin having trouble with sleep, they begin to think and behave differently around sleep. These changes in thinking and behaviour are often what perpetuate sleep problems, and are addressed with cognitive behavioural therapy, one of the key treatments for insomnia.
- Managing sleep disorders: Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and insomnia are very common. Whilst maintaining wellness and good general health are important in sleeping well, if sleep disorders are present, you may still have trouble with sleep or feeling tired through the day.
Health retreats have expertise in the first 2 points, helping people maintain optimal wellbeing and good physical and mental health. Whereas my expertise is with the last 2 points. Retraining people in how they think and behave around sleep, as well as diagnosing and managing sleep disorders.
So whilst health retreats may not have specific expertise in the diagnosis and management of sleep disorders, they are experts in helping people with the foundations of healthy sleep; good physical and mental health, physical fitness, stress management and nutrition.
Healthy sleep is much more than just treating sleep disorders
A number of definitions of healthy sleep have been used. Too commonly it is seen as getting adequate amounts of sleep, the opposite of sleep deficiency. However, a broader definition could include healthy sleep as:
“A pattern of sleep and wakefulness that promotes physical and mental well-being.”
This definition expresses healthy sleep as something positive to work towards and something that could be measured in people with and without sleep disorders.
In healthcare, too often the focus is on managing disorders when they arise, or cause ill health. As a specialist sleep physician I can certainly identify with this. The field of sleep medicine is largely focussed on diagnosing and managing sleep disorders. My training throughout medical school, then post-graduate and fellowship training was very focussed on managing disorders and treating individual episodes when people were unwell enough to need hospital care. My early years as a specialist, working in hospitals continued this focus, treating ill health.
The focus is beginning to shift, with a recent commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine discussing the importance of looking at what people do at home in their day to day lives, and using this to better understand factors contributing to their health and opportunities for improving health. The shift in focus from managing sleep disorders to optimising healthy sleep reinforces the need for the healthcare industry to think outside the box and move away from the traditional model of just managing problems when they arise.
If you’re looking to improve your sleep, take the Sleep Wellness Quiz which measures your performance in each of the 4 components of healthy sleep and will help you prioritise your efforts.
Health retreats give an you an opportunity to try new things
In taking time out from your day-to-day life to go to a health retreat you are stepping out of your usual routine. This gives you the opportunity to introduce new habits, try new sleep routines and put them in to place without other distractions. There are also opportunities to be exposed to new techniques that you may not have been able to get to in your busy life such as yoga or meditation.
So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, and need some time out, maybe a health retreat is what you need.
A modified version of this post has been published in The Huffington Post and is available here.
Related links and posts:
- Elysia Wellness Retreat
- Podcast – Healthy Sleep
- Sleep health: Going beyond sleep disorders
- Assessing your wellness
- Food, Tai Chi and taking time out
- Prioritise Me Time
- What are the benefits of yoga?
Need more information about how you can sleep better?
At Sleephub we understand the struggle people endure with sleeping problems which is why we have created a comprehensive FAQs page with information for those seeking information about sleep disorders and potential solutions.