Goodnight, sleep tight

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 report, Britons on average sleep 6 hours and 49 minutes on work nights, which is 11 minutes shy of their recommended ideal amount of sleep for adults between 26 – 64 years old.  

That adds up to a sleep deficit of almost an hour over 5 workdays which many of us might try to recoup over the weekend. But like a lot of other things in life, sleep can be more about quality and not quantity. We’ve all heard about people claiming to only need 4/5 hours of sleep a night and are still able to function efficiently. How is this possible? Most of us would be found napping at our desks.

Research in human sleep behaviours has revealed that there are genetic mutations that cause people to sleep less and yet still have the energy and activeness as regular sleepers. The researchers determined that these short sleepers are more efficient than the rest of us at sleeping. This suggests that the amount of sleep each person requires could be governed by our genes and not everyone will be the same when it comes to the hours we need. 

Whether you’re a 4 hours or 10 hours a day person, you need to get good quality sleep and it can take a bit of work to make sure that happens. It requires a good amount of discipline and self-control to switch off the TV in the middle of a 'Greatest TV moments in the 90's' programme and to not read another page or two of a good book but the sleep you're getting could make all the difference when you're faced with an energetic class of children or delivering a presentation.

Whilst certain aspects of sleep continue to mystify scientists, there is no doubt over the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. No one wants to be near a tired, grumpy and clumsy person! We have collated some advice to help you get the most out of your sleep.

1) Keep it regular

Try to keep your waking time the same every day including weekends, this will help your body prepare you for waking up every morning. As creatures of habit, we can add our sleeping and wake up times to our routine.

2) Get light during the day and keep it dark at night

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle and is secreted more at night to make you sleepy. Light suppresses the production so make sure you are exposed to light during the day to make you feel awake and alert and cut back at night. This means not watching TV or read anything on a backlit device such as tablets or smartphones before bed and keeping lighting low at night.

3) Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evenings

Caffeine can affect sleeping up to 10 – 12 hours after consumption and alcohol will affect sleep quality. Drinking water too late in the evening might wake you up needing the toilet so reduce liquid intake as well.

4) Develop a bedtime ritual

Do things that will get you ready and in the mood for sleep. Read a ‘real’ book in soft lighting, prepare your clothes and bag for the next day, take a bath or do some easy stretches.

5) Make your bedroom and bed a place for sleeping

Keep your bedroom for bedroom activities only so take out the TV and don’t bring work into the bedroom, so move any work related items elsewhere. Make it comfortable for sleeping and as dark as possible. 

Happy sleeping!

For more advice on sleeping: 

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