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5 more minutes: is that the amount of sleep an average person needs?

17th August, 2019

Phil Rogerson




In Greek mythology, Hypnos was the god of sleep and the personification of sleep itself. He appears throughout Greek mythology, making people fall asleep at opportune times. If only Hypnos could be captured and bottled like Aladdin’s Genie – there when you need him most

 

Not being able to sleep is awful. You’re exhausted and experience the misery of having partied all night…without the pleasure.


Sleep is a barometer of your emotional health. And so if you’re not in the right place before hitting the pillow, then you’re mind will whirr around like a computer hard drive all night long and this has a detrimental knock-on effect on every other part of your life – especially your ability to work.

 

But getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done – especially when stress and anxiety are factors but for some people sleeping can be a breeze – those lucky, lucky souls….

 

You see stress and anxiety impacts heavily on your ability to get to sleep AND the quality of the sleep when you do eventually drift off. In fact lack of sleep among U.K. workers is costing the economy up to £40 billion a year, which is 1.86 per cent of the country's GDP.

 

It’s deemed so important that the government are preparing to publish a directive by Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, regarding a few key health issues, one being the importance of sleep and sleep hygiene.


So what could this directive include?

Well, The NHS currently recommends the average person needs around eight hours of good-quality sleep every night to function properly. It warns a lack of sleep can make people more prone to a number of medical conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Studies suggest people who sleep less than five hours a night have an advanced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The white paper is expected to suggest that the minimum amount of recommended sleep will vary according to age and will come with advice on sleep hygene. If I were an insomniac I might lie awake wondering what those figures are…. Staying awake worrying about sleep? There’s a conundrum…46 per cent of women and 36 per cent of men worry they don’t get enough sleep. Well if this is keeping you up at night, here is what one recent study recommends:

Infants 16-18 hours

Preschoolers  11-12 hours

Juniors at least 10 hours

Teens  9-10 hours

Adults 7-8 hours


Great, if you could flick a switch and our mate Hypnos appears miraculously and you’re transported to the land of nod…. but for us mere mortals many things, including stress and anxiety, prevent us from sleeping well.

 

 

What are the signs that you’re sleep deprived?

Studies have shown that poor sleep patterns do impact on your mental health and it’s easy to highlight the main sign is…tired but there are some common indications that lack of sleep is impacting on your life, your working life and subsequently your mental health, in turn becoming a viscous circle, some of these are: 

·     Poor concentration

·     Irritable moods

·     Decreased communication

·     Increased sickness

·     Poor cognitive functioning

·     Decrease in performance

·     Indecisiveness

·     Increased caffeine intake

·     Greater risk taking

 

What is good sleep hygiene or sleep preparation?

If counting sheep (let’s face it they usually start being naughty and refusing to jump) or a cup of hot chocolate isn’t getting you off to a long cosy sleep then here are my top ten tips to get enough quality sleep and enjoy those zzzzzzzzzzzzzzs…….

1. Limit the Caffeine. Coffee, tea, redbull, coke etc.. they all contain caffeine which is a stimulant that will have the opposite effect of making you drowsy, try to take your last caffeinated drink at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

2. Exercise! Regular exercise is not only good for you physically, but studies have shown that people that exercise on a regular basis sleep better at night. Exercising in the evening, however, will increase your blood pressure and keep you awake.

3. Destress! If you’re up-tight about something then break the pattern of stress by introducing a bedtime routine such as reading, taking a bath (not too warm as this will increase your blood pressure) listen to relaxing music or meditating.

4. Keep your bedroom uncluttered, quiet and dark. The slightest noise when you’re drifting off is enough to completely wake you up, if you can’t eliminate external noise completely try using earplugs. If you experience too much light flooding in through your curtains try fitting a blackout blind. Try to make your bedroom into an oasis of peace – de-clutter it and try a relaxing scent like lavender.

5. Eat well. Going to bed on a full stomach is going to cause digestive problems but on the other hand hunger will cause you to stay awake too. Try a light snack or a glass of milk, which contains “tryptophan”, a sleep-promoting substance.

6. Don’t Drink Alcohol. It seems a little odd but alcohol actually effects the quality of sleep that you’ll get – In the course of a night you usually have six to seven cycles of REM sleep, which leaves you feeling refreshed. However, if you’ve been drinking you’ll typically have only one to two, meaning you can wake feeling exhausted.

7. Don’t Nap! If you have trouble sleeping at night, try not to nap during the day. If you do, keep it short! A brief power nap can be rejuvenating, but keep it to just 15 or 20 minutes.

9. Keep Fido off the bed. If your pet sleeps with you, this might cause some sleeping problems as well. If your pet moves around at night, it can disturb your sleep – not to mention if you have allergies, it won’t help those either!

10. Don’t Watch TV, Eat or Argue in bed. Try to get in the habit of keeping your bed for sleep only. It’s not a place to watch tv, eat or argue with your spouse. All of these will make it difficult for you to fall asleep.

11. Lastly, and arguably the most important. Mobile phones. It’s hard to stress highly enough the importance of a healthy, well-synched circadian rhythm. So many of our body functions rely on this. Our metabolism, our mood, our appetite for sweet or junk foods (and in turn our weight), our risk of developing diabetes and possibly even cancer, the list goes on and on.

Artificial light at night, especially the blue type from phones and screens, confuses our brain and messes up this clock. Checking our social media pages or emails late at night will also suppress our melatonin secretion and reduce the amount of REM sleep.

Mr Hancock’s white paper is eagerly awaited so that we know for sure how much sleep we need and indeed how to get the right quota of that elusive power that Hypnos possesses, but in fact I suspect the content might well be the panacea for all our sleepless nights… who knows?

One person I do agree with in respect to sleep is Jo Jo Jensen (Dirt farmer wisdom) when he wrote a very poignant observation…. without sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds.


Phil Rogerson

Phil Rogerson created the Calmer Sea app and now runs programmes for companies to address mental health and wellbeing, helping them build environments that enable individuals to flourish - www.calmerworkplace.com. He believes that amazing happens when unique minds work together and that unique is what makes us amazing. He explains that everybody is unique. We all have our own strengths, understanding what our individual strengths are and learning to appreciate ourselves for who we are is a very important part of the Calmer Workplace process. Realising how our own skills can complement those of other people then blending them together to achieve a shared goal...well that can create amazing.

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