I just read a really great post in Tony Schwartz’s blog for the Harvard Business Review. Quoting up-to-date research, Schwartz confirms what I’ve always suspected: that sleep is MORE not LESS important than we typically assume. According to research, even mild sleep deprivation diminishes our ability to focus and perform well. What’s more, it looks like the converse is also true – when top performers are interviewed, they’re found to sleep more than average, exploding the myth that the most successful people tend to be the midnight-oil-burners.
As someone who regularly falls short of the 7-8 hour ideal, I can definitely confirm the truth of this. I know that I’m chirpier and more efficient when I’m well rested (not to mention less likely to scoff an entire box of Celebrations in the hopes of a sugar-pick-me-up). Nevertheless, I always manage to convince myself that it’s important that I just stay up that little bit later to complete that nagging report or to finish the washing up or to chat on the phone or just to watch Jersey Shore. But there’s nothing like cold, hard scientific facts to make you call into question your habits. So, if you’re like me and need some extra motivation to force yourself into bed before midnight, or if you’re just looking for a scientific justification for a lie-in, then check out Schwartz’s blog for the full details.
And if you’re one of those people who has trouble getting off to sleep or staying asleep, then I recommend you might want to check out Dr Frank Lipman’s advice for getting more shut-eye. Dr L’s top tips include:
- Creating a ‘sleep routine’ – basically going to bed and getting up around the same time.
- Taking time to wind down before bed – This is the thing I’m most guilty of not doing . Apparently we should instate an ‘electrical shut down’ after 10pm: that means no TV, no computers, nothing that could ‘overstimulate the brain’ too much. Dr L also recommends dimming the lights in the lead up to sleep and then having complete darkness when you want to get off to sleep, as darkness allows us to produce the vital ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin.
- Calming the mind and body before bed – he recommends breathing exercises, meditation or yoga poses.
- If you find you can’t fall asleep within 45 minutes, get up, get out of the bedroom and do something different.
- Snacking on protein before bed, instead of carbs carbs effect blood sugar levels more drastically which can cause disrupted sleep.
- Avoid sleeping pills – I’m very much guilty of this one too – oh dear! Apparently they’re potentially highly addictive, potentially dangerous and often make insomnia worse in the long run. Eeek!
- Avoiding alcohol before bed Alcohol does have an initial sleep inducing effect, but it usually goes on to disrupt sleep during the second half of the night. Dr L recommends drinks like camomile tea instead, or taking magnesium or melatonin.