There’s a silent epidemic creeping through society in the dead of night!
At least 1 in 4 of us wake in the night or, find it hard to nod off. Not only does this make us feel groggy and less productive the following day, it’s also thought that driving a car following a missed night’s sleep is comparable to being over the alcohol driving limit!
In business, numerous accidents have occurred due to bad decisions made by overtired leaders, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Chernobyl nuclear leak and the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion. None of this is helped by the myths that perpetuate around the subject of sleep:
5 sleep myths
- More sleep equals more energy – Sleeping for too long is known as hypersomnia and can result in side effects such headaches, back pain and depression.
- Make up for lost sleep at the weekend – Whilst a Sunday afternoon nap can help you to recharge after a particularly busy week, it can’t beat going to bed and waking at the same time each day. Our body clock depends on a consistant sleeping pattern and we need to have the right dosage of sleep each day to reboot our brains, stave off illness and – according to one researcher – even burn excess body fat!
- Exercising keeps you awake – Most research suggests that people who are regularly active tend to fall asleep faster and sleep longer and more deeply than those who do not exercise regularly. This is supported by the fact that obesity and respiratory conditions are often causes of sleep disorders.
- Get eight hours of sleep each night – On average this is true but eight hours is just an average. Our individual sleep requirement is dependent on our lifestyle and make up.
- Stay in bed if you can’t sleep – The frustration of not being able to get to sleep can make it even more difficult to nod off. Harvard Medical School recommends that after 20 minutes, it is better to go to another room, and do something relaxing, until you are tired enough to sleep.
10 sleeping tips:
- Invest in a better mattress and pillows – we spend a more time in our beds than in our cars, at our desks or watching our TVs yet often we spend more on these items.
- Get darker curtains – even with our eyes closed we can detect changes in light. Blacking out the room enables your body to get the sleep it needs without being distracted by sunrise or street lamps.
- Read before sleep – a good book, especially fiction, is great preparation for dream time, distracting our minds from the ‘noise’ of the day.
- Get 12 hours rest before work – between leaving work and returning take 12 hours off including sleep time, relaxing and exercising to feel energised the next day.
- Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol before bedtime – stimulants do exactly that and while a night cap might help us to fall asleep it will disturb our sleep rhythm during the night.
- Take a warm bath – to relax body and mind, making you feel soothed, pampered and ready to rest.
- Control your breathing – focusing on taking long, slow breaths, like counting sheep, allows the mind and body to gently shut down.
- Don’t sleep on a full stomach – digestion occurs best when we are upright, so allow your whole body including your tummy some time off overnight.
- Exercise, preferably outdoors – an evening stroll can wash away the psychological and physiological toxins that build up during a day indoors, especially when we allow our heart and lungs to work a little harder.
- Avoid electronic screens immediately before bed – late night news and end of day email do nothing to help settle our minds for the night ahead.
If you are having trouble sleeping take this online sleep assessment to identify the cause and possible cure: