Do you feel you get enough sleep?
Are you constantly tired?
Do you lack energy to complete your daily tasks?
How Much do we Need?
According to the US National Sleep Foundation, working age adults need 7-9 hours sleep a night, however according to The Sleep council’s 2013 report, 40% of Brits get 6 hours or less sleep a night, meaning a minimum shortfall of 1-3 hours’ per night.
This might not seem like much sleep lost, however over a year this generally accumulates to the loss of 365-1,095, which is the equivalent of around 15-46 full 24-hour days per year (so generally a shortfall of around a month’s worth of sleep). This over multiple years could have a massive impact upon your wellbeing, health, and quality of life.
In general terms, most of us need around eight hours a night to function properly. But what matters is that you find out how much YOU need and then try to achieve it. To do this, as a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend most of the day rubbing your eyes, feeling tired, and longing for a chance to have a nap, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough.
“For anyone who has any kind of sleep issues, this is a really useful session to help manage issues. Sleep is so important” said Fiona Temple (past delegate of Lead Well).
Short Term Effects
The lack of sleep can have various short term effects on your body and life, such as:
- Lack in concentration
- Poor performance
- Impaired decision making
- Heightened emotional – anger/mood-swings/tearfulness
- Muscle aches and pains
- Bad diet (craving food high in sugar and fat)
- Negative impacts on relationships
- Increased risk of injury and accident
Long Term Impact
The short term effects are easy to reverse in a few days/weeks/months by catching up on lost sleep, however if suffering from longer term sleep problems this could result in:
- High blood pressure
- General illness
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Mental health illness (especially depression)
- Cognitive disfunction
- More longer lasting impact of short term effects (i.e. headaches, relationship breakdown, increased risk of serious, long term injury, and long term forgetfulness (e.g. dementia and similar illnesses).
Strategies to Help Encourage
A variety of factors can cause poor sleep, including health conditions such as sleep apnoea. However, in most cases, it’s a matter of bad habits that causes lack of and poor quality.
The following strategies can help to encourage better quality and length.
- Maintain a Diary
The famous Peter Drucker quote “What gets measured gets done” could never be truer when it comes to sleep. By maintaining a diary, you will be able to monitor exactly how much you are getting and how you feel. You can use one of the various phone apps and/or a smartwatch to monitor your sleep hours and quality, or a simple diary if you prefer.
- Power Nap
Whilst, the best solution is to go to bed at the same time every night, a rest or nap can help alleviate fatigue and tiredness. Power naps of no longer than 20 minutes are an effective way to increase energy levels. However, even if you can’t sleep, just taking time out to relax can be extremely beneficial to your performance.
- Have a Lie In
If you don’t get enough, there’s only one way to compensate – getting more! Starting on a weekend, try to add on an extra hour or two of sleep a night. The best way to do this is to go to bed when you’re tired and allow your body to wake you in the morning (no alarm clocks allowed!).
A 2011 Sleep in America™ poll linked the pervasive use of communications technology in the hour before bed to not getting good sleep.
“Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Make sure you stop using devices at least one hour before bed and try to keep them out of the bedroom.
- Prepare your Mind
To prepare your mind for sleep you can use relaxation techniques, which you can learn from books or audiobooks. Reading in bed also helps some people, but if you do read in bed, only read light-hearted books or magazines. Classical music and meditating can also have a relaxing effect, helping you to drift off naturally!
- Prepare your Body (and Stomach)
If you tend to eat in the evening, try foods that are high in tryptophan. Tryptophan helps with the production of Serotonin which is a sleep/relaxation hormone, and can be found in foods such as turkey, duck, chicken, salmon, cottage cheese, nuts, cheese, eggs, and beans. Also, avoid eating heavy meals, and drinking alcohol and caffeine leading up to bedtime.
- Deal with the Others!
Quite often other people and other things are the reason we don’t sleep properly. Some common issues include;
- Restless Partners – consider separate beds, or moving into the spare room
- Snorers – as above or get some ear plugs
- Pets – a couple of tough love nights in the kitchen and your pet will soon know it’s place
- Kids – see pets above, but perhaps not the kitchen!
- Prepare your Bedroom
You should associate your room with sleep, therefore avoid having a TV, computer or radio in your bedroom. Also, try dimming the lights 60-90 minutes before going to bed, and ensure that your bedroom temperature is at the optimal temperature of 17-20 degrees C. Ideally, the room should be decorated in a relaxing way, with blackout blinds to keep any natural daylight out. Aromatic oils (e.g. lavender) on your pillow can also help you relax and associate your bedroom with rest.
To eliminate the harmful impact that lack of sleep has on our health and wellbeing, we need to use essential strategies to ensure that we are getting enough.
“Offered realistic solutions, fresh ideas and perspectives” commented Richard Marsh (past delegate of Lead Well).
Find out more about how to get a better night’s rest on our Lead Well Programme starting in May 2017 HERE.