Meet Australia’s Leading Sleep Expert, Olivia Arezzolo
Feeling anxious, groggy and irritable throughout the day? These are leading signs of sleep deprivation, and ones that we know all too well. On our quest for more restful slumber, we sat down with Australia’s leading sleep expert, Olivia Arezzolo, to discuss how to improve the quality of our sleep. She shares tips to help us combat our sleep woes, and wake feeling energized!
You published a bestselling book Bear, Lion or Wolf. The book is based around sleep chronotypes, could you talk a little more about what that is?
Your chronotype is an underlying circadian rhythm preference, categorized into bears, lions or wolves. Lions have an early phase; rising and sleeping early, Bears, a mid phase; rising and sleeping neither early nor late, and wolves have a late phase; rising and sleeping particularly late. While there are much more to chronotypes, this is a great baseline to start understanding the concept.
Are there any essential items we need in our bedroom to improve our sleep quality?
I strongly recommend blue light glasses – they can reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep by 78%! As light is the main factor controlling the circadian rhythm, it’s essential to moderate it to support healthy sleep. With that in mind, blue light free lights are also extremely valuable for evening use, and a sunrise lamp is super effective for a naturalistic way to wake up, opposed to a standard alarm clock.
What are signs of sleep deprivation we should look out for?
Anxiety is a huge one – this may be felt as an inability to switch off, mental rumination or restlessness. Feeling depressed, flat and lifeless is also common, as our brains haven’t had the refractory period necessary to produce endorphins like serotonin and dopamine; usually helping us feel mentally energised and alert. Frequent colds and flus are also common for those with sleep deprivation due to the 70% decrease in natural killer cells, otherwise responsible for detecting and destroying pathogens like bacteria and viruses.
What’s your perspective on sleeping pills as a sleep expert?
Sleeping pills are a big no-no, but I believe most people know this. However, stuck with few other solutions, they resort to sleeping pills even though most don’t want to. Biochemically, sleeping pills like benzodiazepines heavily sedate the body and brain, so though we are sleeping, it’s not a deep quality sleep. More specifically, we miss out on REM sleep, necessary for emotional regulation and memory consolidation. Not only is this therefore a problem at night, but the following day too, when we are moody, irritable and aggravated.
Oftentimes we suffer from anxiety before a big event which makes it difficult to sleep. What are some ways we can quell this anxiety to ensure a good night’s rest?
Wearing blue light glasses is a novel and science based strategy to reduce anxiety. As light otherwise enhances cortisol, our stress hormone, we can reduce our likelihood of becoming anxious by mediating light, and specifically avoiding it 2 hours before bed. Magnesium plays a huge role in mental and physical relaxation and has been shown to reduce anxiety by 31% over the course of 4 weeks, so that’s a definite addition to bedtime for any anxious sleeper! Lavender too– it naturally calms the central nervous system, so diffusing it and dabbing it on pulse points is extremely helpful for those with anxiety.
Rapid Fire Round
Do you have a bedtime ritual?
Wearing blue light glasses while I go about my evening activities for 2 or so hours before bed. It’s a non-negotiable.
What do you wear to bed?
When it’s hot, nothing. When it’s cold, bamboo pjs.
What is on your bedside table?
Plants, my book, and a gratitude journal.
Are you a night owl or an early bird?
Which scent makes you think of bedtime?
Are you reading or watching anything good at the moment?
“The Obstacle is the Way,” by Ryan Holiday
What are some nighttime items you cannot live without?
I think I’ve mentioned it a few times, but blue light glasses! Magnesium, lavender, a book, and an eye mask are all essentials too.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Eating while standing next to the fridge.
Are there any health & wellness trends you’re interested in trying?
I’m keen to do some long walks in Europe over the summer– hiking in the alps of Italy in particular!
How do you engage in self-care?
Listen attentively to my body– if it calls for rest, food, movement, or fun– and make sure I honor that need rather than quash it.
What is your favorite way to de-stress?
A long nature walk and time in the ocean.
What is your favorite workout at the moment?
Weights at the gym – this is always my favourite though!
What do you consider the single most important thing for a good night’s sleep?
Reducing blue light before bed.
What was your favourite childhood bedtime story?
I don’t recall having one!
What is your skincare routine like? Do you have any holy grail products?
Simple as anything – cleanser, serum, and an overnight mask at night. I love Aussie brands JSHealth and Jurlique.
How would you choose to spend one hour of free time?
Take a walk along the beach with my dog Jackie, and listen to Kygo and reminisce about Palm Tree Festival, where I saw him twice. He didn’t play twice in the same place, I just liked it so much that after the first festival, I flew to another state to see him again!
If you could choose a song to wake up to every morning, what would it be?
“I Could Be the One,” by Aviciii