How to Sleep Easily? November 30 2016
Are you getting enough sleep? According to the Sleep Council the answer is no as we get only six and a half hours’ sleep per night. Approximately 15 million sick days per year are sleep related and on average we are getting two hours less sleep today than 60 years ago (Russell Foster). Amongst over 55s, only 46% get a good night's sleep, women sleep less soundly than men and living in the countryside with tractor and bird noises equals poorer quality sleep compared to city dwellers.
Anybody who contacts us at Honeymellow knows that we are often working morning, noon and night responding to customer requests, sending out sample designs and making your signs to try and post the same day to meet the needs of early birds, night owls and of course our many global customers. Yet, we also know that sleep is vitally important to us to so that we are always at our best on our busy farm. Many people, like us, may not always stick to conventional hours, particularly if a job requires shift work. Due to popular demand, we produced a range of ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs for modern life. These are designed to make sure that when your head finally hits that soft, feathery pillow, hopefully, there are NO interruptions, NO noises and nothing preventing you from getting the required beauty sleep.
SIX REASONS WHY SLEEP IS IMPORTANT
Rather than shutting down, your body actually becomes more active when sleeping, leading the following gains:
- ENHANCED INTELLIGENCE: sleep improves the functioning of your brain, improving your capacity to learn, a sharper memory, quicker problem-solving skills, better concentration, increased creativity and the ability to be decisive. If your memory is not as good as usual, you need some more shut-eye.
- PEOPLE WILL LIKE YOU: Grumpy? Depressed? Short-tempered? You need more sleep.
- STAY SLIMMER: The less sleep you have, the probability of obesity increases as your hormones become unbalanced. A study has shown that two hours sleep less than average per night can lead to a weight gain of 1.5kg per year. Why? The hormone grehlin which increases your hunger goes up and leptin which makes you feel full goes down if you are sleep deficient. The implications of this? You will want to eat more as well as general tiredness will reduce your motivation to exercise and reduce that enticing chocolate dessert at the back of the fridge.
IMPROVES OVERALL HEALTH: The risk of type-2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity all decrease when you have enough sleep. Your immune system gets a boost and the body repairs itself. We are more likely to take sick days if we have under six hours or over nine hours sleep (
(Finnish Institute of Occupational Health)
- SAVES YOU TIME: If you have enough sleep you are quicker at doing tasks, able to be more productive and less likely to make mistakes.
- IT WILL MAKE YOU SMILE: An extra hour of sleep/night can do more for daily happiness than a $60k raise. (Arianna Huffington: Thrive p77)
Just one or two hours sleep deficiency can turn these benefits into reverse which can have damaging effects if you are driving a car, working machinery or just going about your daily business. In the week that an hour’s sleep was lost in the move to British summertime, heart attacks increased by 5% Even if you feel fine, you may still be suffering from slow reactions, learning impairment, over-eating and generally damaging your health. It is enough to make you want to lie down now.
HOW DO I GET TO SLEEP EASILY?
The hormone melatonin makes us sleepy. This is part of your biological clock and can be influenced by light signals via the eyes which makes you more sleepy at night when it increases as well as mid-afternoon. Shift workers are often working against their biological clock which leads to sleep deprivation. As you can imagine, interruptions during the day makes a difficult situation much worse.
WHAT CAN SHIFT WORKERS DO?
Research shows that a decade of doing shift work is like having permanent jet lag which can age your brain by 6.5 years (Swansea University) as well as the lack of sunlight resulting in low vitamin D. If you work shifts, as well as making sure you are not interrupted when sleeping, the following is recommended to help protect your memory and mental capacity:
- Get as much sleep as possible by trying to sleep longer and maybe taking a power nap.
- Increase alertness during your working hours by using bright lights. Reduce noise and bright lights when sleeping during the day by stopping visitors pressing door bells and using black-out curtains.
- If you are a coffee drinker, only have coffee during the first part of your shift although if you are particularly sensitive to caffeine this may still reduce your overall quality of sleep. Alcohol should not be consumed three hours before going to bed. A warm, milky drink is much better to lure you to sleep and also prevents hunger.
- Your body clock likes regular habits so try to avoid changes in your shift and sleeping patterns.
- Practise stress-releasing techniques such as mindfulness which stills a buzzing mind, get a bedtime routine which includes a relaxing bath.
HOW MUCH SLEEP IS ENOUGH?
The amount of sleep you need varies according to age and individual needs. People often think that the elderly need less sleep but this may be because they are suffering a deficit due to difficulties getting to sleep. On average adults need 7-8 hours of sleep. Far better to think in terms of sleep quality rather than amount. You may sleep for a long time but still feel tired if your sleep is disturbed. Francesco Cappuccio from Warwick University argues that there is a 12% increase of dying before the age of 65 if you are sleeping less than six hours a night. Can you sleep too much? More than an hour’s extra sleep than required does not do you any good either, causing further tiredness for a few hours called post-sleep inertia.
If you nap make sure this is not later than 3pm and no more than 20 minutes otherwise your body clock is disturbed and you may not sleep at night. A study in ‘Current Biology’ in 2011 showed that power naps can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by more than a third. Improved alertness and performance as well as a reduction in stress are all helped by mid- afternoon naps when our body naturally drops in temperature. However a Cambridge University study showed that sleeping for more than an hour during the day leads to an increase of premature death by a third A Disney study showed a fifth of workers admit to having at least one nap a week at work with four in five workers in London admitting to longing for a daily nap - hardly surprising as Londoners sleep the least in the country with just six hours per night. Favourite places to nap include the car, desk, canteen and in the sun. Ideally rather than catching-up on sleep at a weekend or a lazy afternoon, it is far better to have a regular rhythm for your biological clock and stick to it. Changes to sleeping hours can take a week for adjustments to be made by your body.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?
Take a look at our quirky ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs that may help remind members of your household and visitors to your door such as delivery firms, cold callers and well-meaning neighbours, not to make a noise. There are signs for particular occupations, general requests as well as ones for teenagers who tend to sleep longer and later. We can even personalise them for you. Perfect for that special sleep-deprived, grumpy person in your life! Use some of the tips in this article and take a look at a brilliant guide at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf which has a sleep diary for you to keep at the end.
Finally, if you are reading this in bed before going to sleep, the light from your screen will be suppressing the release of sleep-inducing melatonin - i.e. keeping you wide awake, so put it down and switch it off until the morning. Sweet dreams!