You snooze. You don’t lose.

Sleep

There’s something about London and probably all big cities that make for extreme busy-ness and nightmare schedules. FOMO is real. FOLO is real. Google them if you don’t know what I’m talking about (I had to do this with BAE recently. Seriously?).

There just aren’t enough hours in a day. And so what happens? We don’t sleep. And then we want to sleep IN. Before we have to go to work.

This isn’t exactly a groundbreaking new topic but one that is really important. We need to get out of the mindset that sleeping is a waste of time. It’s not. And it’s why I’ve made (building up to) 7-8 hours of sleep a night for at least six nights a week my only ‘resolution’ for 2016. There have been countless studies on this topic and whole schools/research units dedicated to the subject. We know the following:

  • Sleep is essential to maintaining normal levels of cognitive skills such as memory and creative thinking
  • Sleep helps you to make more rational decisions and allows you to react to fast-changing situations. This is why working hours are important, particularly with regards those in healthcare professions (posted at a time when NHS junior doctor strikes are top of mind)
    • According to research cited by the BBC, 17 hours of wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of two glasses of wine (0.05%)
    • In a much more grave circumstances, lack of sleep was said to have been a contributing factor to international disasters such as Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl and the Challenger shuttle explosion.
  • We all know what happens when you don’t sleep: you’re grumpier, irritable, and forgetful, you have a shorter attention span and less energy. You then start to negatively affect those around you
  • In terms of your body, muscles, neurons, tissues and cells used during the time you are awake need time to shut down and repair themselves. This is even more relevant if you exercise or train hard regularly. If you’re not seeing improvements over time then one thing you may want to look at are your sleep patterns
  • Research also suggests that because chemicals and hormones related to appetite regulation are released during sleep, a lack of sleep can therefore lead to easier weight gain and increase the risk of obesity, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

Fitbit Surge sleep tracking

Need some extra suggestions beyond the ‘switch off all tech’, ‘make sure your room is pitch black’ advice? It’s a constant struggle because I’m a natural night owl. (PT sessions at midnight anyone? How’s ‘The vampire’ or ‘Insomniac’ for a class name? You heard it here first) Here are some random, maybe slightly crazier things that I’m trying:

  • Invest in an activity tracker that monitors sleep. This can serve as a daily reminder on how well you may (or may not) be doing and encourage you to be more efficient with your time. If you manage to achieve your goal for say 7 days in a row, celebrate with a small treat
  • Trick yourself. Don’t fully charge your phone before you go to bed. Psychologically this will make you think that your battery is going to die and you’ll then miss all of your alarms in the morning (you know what I’m talking about). So switch off your wireless and 3G/4G. That way you can’t be tempted to look at it every time you see a flashing light in the dark (if you really must keep your phone on at all)
  • Invest in a new mattress or mattress topper. I got a memory foam for Christmas along with silk pillowcases. Yes, it may sound silly but these things have convinced me to get into bed sooner. They’re also a great relief for sore muscles!

Silk pillowcase

  • Put on an action or other epic movie that you want to watch. All the flashing imagery will probably induce shut-eye by mid way through if your body wants to sleep but you don’t
  • Schedule early morning workouts at least once a week. This isn’t for everyone but it can help you get to bed a little earlier. I was told a while ago ‘not to bother’ working out at all if I had less than 7 hours sleep the night before as its counterproductive and puts a lot of strain on your body. This in turn weakens your immune system and your body becomes more susceptible to all those bugs floating around. I now cancel workouts if I get into bed late and this doesn’t feel great but does encourage me to do better next time. For the night owls, it also frees up the odd evening!

If anyone has any other useful sleep tips, please do share.

References:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sleep/

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx

http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ssehs/research/behavioural-medicine/sleep-research-centre/keyinterests/