Do you find that you can’t get to sleep at night? Do you find you are drinking endless cups of coffee to stay alert during the day? Do you need a little alcohol in the evenings to relax after a long day slumped over the computer? That was certainly the way I was….
Maybe you are sleep deprived. I couldn’t believe it when I started to research this subject that I could potentially be sleep deprived. I loved drinking tea every hour, on the hour. I loved to watch a bit of tele with a nice glass of wine. I always fell asleep before the end of the program so never knew what was going on but so what. I was busy. Then I began to understand the power of sleep, here are some quotes:
As one sleep scientist has said, “if sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made.” Prof Mathew Walker
We sleep for a rich litany of functions, plural – an abundant constellation of nightie benefits that service both our brains and our bodies. There does not seem to be one major organ within the body, or process within the brain, that isn’t optimally enhanced by sleep (and detrimentally impaired when we don’t get enough). Prof Mathew Walker
Within the brain, sleep enriches a diversity of functions, including our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions and choices. Benevolently servicing our psychological health, sleep recalibrates our emotional brain circuits, allowing us to navigate next-day social and psychological challenges with cool-headed composure. Prof Mathew Walker
We are even beginning to understand … the most controversial of all conscious experience: the dream. Dreaming provides a unique suite of benefits to all species fortunate enough to experience it, humans included. Prof Mathew Walker
We are in the middle of a sleep deprivation epidemic and we are not aware of it. Our normal lifestyles now ask that we reduce our sleep by 25per cent, or about 6 hours a night compared to 8 hours which we were doing 60 years ago. When we are sleep deprived, we don’t know it and we don’t realise how much this impairs our performance.
‘If sleep does not service an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolution process ever made.’ Dr Allan Rechschaffen
What happens when we sleep?
Ø The body actively recovers itself
Ø The brain spring cleans itself and washes away waste products that have built up during the day (autophagy)
Ø The brain lays down new memories by promoting the growth of new nerve cells
When you sleep well this is what happens:-
It is much easier to make good decisions during the day – so you eat better and you exercise more
Ø You crave less sugary food – so you are at reduced risk of being overweight
Ø You feel more energetic
Ø You are more likely to engage in relaxation practices – such as meditation
Ø Your immune system improves
Ø Your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes reduces
Ø Your memory is improved
Ø Your stress levels are reduced
Ø You are at less risk of developing Alzheimer’s
The world is experiencing widespread sleep deprivation. The big problem is that people don’t realise they are sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation, even moderately, is the same as alcohol intoxication on performance i.e. decision making, exercise, fatigue and eating. If you sleep better, you become more productive, we are more likely to stick with our exercise schedule and our healthy food choices.
How much sleep do we need?
Roughly 6-8 hours per night – but RATE yourself, fill in the table below:-
Do you wake feeling refreshed?
Do you wake up around the same time without an alarm?
Do you fall asleep in 30 mins?
Key: 0 = never/rarely 1 = occasionally 2 = almost always
A score of 0 equates to poor sleep health, a score of 6 is excellent. If you score under 6 then take a look at the options below for ideas to help yourself
Professor Mathew Walker recommends following some of the options below:
Regular bedtime and waking time even at the weekends
Cool bedroom temperature of around 180C
Darkness in the evening to release melatonin, staying away from screens, phones and overhead lighting
Waking in the night – after 25 minutes get up and read or listen to a podcast – only go to bed when you are sleepy so your brain relearns the bedroom is for sleep
Caffeine and alcohol – alcohol is a sedative, it is not sleep and it blocks dream sleep – or emotional convalescence. Caffeine is a stimulant, it also has a half live of 5 to 7 hours, so if you have a coffee at midday it is equivalent to a quarter cup of coffee at 10 in the evening.
I am developing a sleep course of 6 classes that take in the aspects from above and integrate them with the breath work, the asanas and the relaxation or savasana at the end. In addition, each course will include a True Relax session of restorative yoga and yoga nidra, these focus on curated aspects of sleep.
Why we sleep Professor Mathew Walker Sleep Diplomat: Professor Matt Walker PhD
The Four Pillar Plan Dr Rangan Chatterjee published by Penguin
Why Sleep is the Most Important Pillar of Health with Professor Matthew Walker - Dr Rangan Chatterjee (drchatterjee.com) the first interview on the podcast
How To Improve Your Sleep and Why You Should with Professor Matthew Walker - Dr Rangan Chatterjee (drchatterjee.com) the second interview a year later on the podcast