Monthly Archives: May 2014

To sleep, perchance to dream…

“Are you getting enough sleep?”

“He sleeps like a baby”

“Sleep is for the weak”

There are so many myths and beliefs about sleep, and yet it remains a bit of a mystery…  A doctor, who had been researching sleep for about 50 years is quoted as saying, “As far as I know, the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.” – William Dement.

it is a state of being shared by many animals, even insects to a certain degree. When we’re asleep, we know our body is being renewed and strengthened, but what about our minds?

Most of us know that feeling of not enough sleep, feeling hazy, out of it, and prone to forgetfulness, silly mistakes and clumsiness.  Longer term, if we build up a “sleep debt”, it can affect our thinking, our emotions, and our bodies.

But how much is enough?  Do we have to be in bed by 10.30pm and up by 6.30am?  Or do we follow stories of famous light sleepers who apparently only needed 4 hours a night?  Apparently, adults need between 7-8 hours sleep.  If we get significantly less, we can build up a “sleep debt”, and too much sleep can also have a negative impact on mood and physical health.

One way to work out if you are getting enough sleep is to try sleeping for different lengths of time and to keep a diary of how you feel during the day.

If you feel you aren’t sleeping enough, or the quality of your sleep is poor – perhaps you wake frequently, or find it very difficult to drop off to sleep – there are some simple steps to try, which can be all gathered together under the name of keeping good sleep hygiene.

1.  Bedroom.  To make sure that your bedroom is helping you to sleep, your bed should be comfortable, the air should be fairly cool, and the room should be as dark as possible.

2.  Behaviour.  Try to make sure that you keep the bedroom for sleep and sex.  No working or watching telly!  Parents are encouraged to lead their children through a regular night time routine, but we tend to leave this behind as adults.  Getting ready for bed early by putting aside laptops, tablets, telly etc, and relaxing with a book and a bath can help.  Exercise and fresh air during the day is helpful, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime.

3.  Through the night.  If you have a wakeful night, then instead of lying in bed trying hard to sleep for longer than about twenty minutes is counterproductive.  Much better to get up and do something different until you feel sleepy again.  If you wake in the night with a worry, you could try keeping a notepad and pen by your bed so you can write it down.

4.  Nutrition.  A warm drink before bed can help.  Our temperature naturally falls when we sleep, so we can help trick ourselves by artificially raising then lowering our temperature.  Avoiding caffeine later in the day is helpful too.  This could be as early as 2pm.  Alcohol can help you feel drowsy, but it tends to diminish the quality of your sleep later on.

What other things do you find helpful when trying to combat poor sleep?