Sleep

Your sleep patterns and the quality of sleep you get play a huge role in how you perform.

Now, more than ever, we are learning the importance of sleep and how it impacts us daily.

Sleep runs in many different stages and the first 3 hours of sleep is often where your deep sleep occurs [1] . Although scientists are still unsure as to exactly why we need sleep, we understand it is necessary for the mind to be in a calm/still state and the body to “reset” even though during sleep the body and mind are almost always in an “active” state.

As we move through the stages we will experience REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is where we have the majority of dreams, it has also been shown that a lack of REM sleep can have negative effects on our ability to learn complex tasks[2].

Some people need far less sleep than others and there is no “golden rule” on just how much sleep you should have. The average sleep required sits at around 7-9 hours depending upon our age and few other factors.

Often as we age our sleep requirements lessen, which would explain why a new born baby can (sometimes) accumulate 12-18 hours sleep per day and an elderly person may find themselves later to bed and awake from the early hours[3].

The balance between sleeping and being awake is called our Circadian Rhythm and we often find this balance disturbed, especially if we work in shifts, have young children to care for or struggle to find ways to “switch off”.

If you find yourself in this situation here are some simple strategies to implement, as with all things they may work for you straight away, or, they may take some time and consistency for you to really feel the benefits. The key is staying positive and applying these strategies slowly, allowing them to become new habits[4]:

  1. When it’s time to sleep make sure the room you are in is as dark as possible. Our sleep patterns are governed by light and the less light we have the more soundly we are likely to sleep. This can be tricky, particularly if you are a night shift worker. Although it may not be the height of fashion, a sleep mask works just as well as a dark room if the latter is not available.
  1. Limit the amount of time you spend staring at screens before bedtime. This strategy is very likely the most common one we will hear at the moment. Television, social media, movies, you name it, there’s a good chance we use it to escape, which can actually be healthy when it’s done at the right time and with benefit to our mental state. Try to remove all use of screened technology 1 hour before you intend to sleep, this will help the brain find a calmer rhythm in which to enter the seep cycle.
  1. Move. When you are awake, when it’s time to be functional and start your day, even a 10 minute walk has been shown to have beneficial results on mental health, physical wellbeing and overall performance throughout the day. Getting some day light, fresh air and movement into your routine can really boost your energy.