To mark World Sleep Day, assistant psychologists, Jade Hardy and Jasmin Bowen from the Bryn Melyn Care clinical team share some insights into how we can all make sure we get a good night’s rejuvenating sleep.
Are you getting enough sleep? World sleep day is an annual event to raise awareness of sleep disorders and the burden that they place on society. Jade and Jasmin Bowen share a few tips to help us all get a better night’s sleep. They look at some common sleep disorders and reveal some fascinating and fun facts about sleep, which, alongside a healthy diet and getting plenty of fresh air and exercise, is a key factor for maintaining good physical and mental health.
The science available about sleep reveals the ways in which sleep and dreams play a vital role in our decision-making, emotional intelligence, cognitive functioning, productivity and creativity. Science has proven that sleep, is the ultimate performance enhancer so if we are going to truly thrive and make the most out of our lives, we must begin with sleep.
- Sleep problems constitute a global epidemic that threatens health and quality of life for up to 45% of the world’s population.
- People the world over-consume caffeine called the most popular drug in the world on a daily basis in tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, some soft drinks, and some drugs. Milk chocolate usually has at five milligrams or less of caffeine per ounce. Generally, the level of caffeine in chocolate is higher as the chocolate gets darker because dark chocolate contains more cocoa.
- We naturally feel tired at two different times of the day: about 2:00 AM and 2:00 PM. This natural dip in alertness is primarily responsible for the post-lunch dip.
- Man is the only mammal that willingly delays sleep.
- People often think drinking alcohol before bed is a relaxant; however, it actually turns into a stimulant as our liver processes it. It can also lead people into going into deep sleep, which means they miss an important stage of sleep – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep that is responsible for processing.
- The blue light from electronic devices suppresses melatonin, which is a sleep-inducing hormone (it helps you fall asleep and stay asleep).
- Snoring is a common condition that can affect anyone although this occurs more frequently in men and people who are overweight; snoring also has a tendency to worsen with age.
- Napoleon Bonaparte famously prescribed “six hours of sleep for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool” however, historians’ suspect that he suffered from sleep apnoea.
- Margaret Thatcher famously ‘ran the country’ on four hours sleep a night and suggested that this was fine as long as there is one night a week where you can have more!
- It is thought that up to 15% of the population are sleepwalkers
- One in four married couples sleeps in separate beds.
Common sleep disorders: Overview, causes and treatment
Sleep Deprivation – this is the condition of not having enough sleep; it can be either chronic or acute. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight loss or weight gain. One in three people is reported to be affected by sleep deprivation. There a number of causes including, voluntary sleep deprivation, lifestyle choices, mental health and stress. Treatment for this includes increased sleep (for recovery over a short period), improved sleep care and the absence of caffeine until regular sleep patterns are restored.
Sleep Apnoea – Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing leading to interruptions in sleep. Treatment can include losing excess weight, cutting down on alcohol and sleeping on your side. Using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device: these devices prevent your airway closing while you sleep by delivering a continuous supply of compressed air through a mask or wearing a mandibular advancement device (MAD). This gum shield-like device fits around your teeth, holding your jaw and tongue forward to increase the space at the back of your throat while you sleep.
Insomnia – Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. The disorder affects 1 in 3 people in the UK. It is often difficult to identify a cause, though it is linked to; stress, anxiety, the use of recreational drugs, some medications, poor sleep routine and environment and some medical conditions (angina, asthma, overactive thyroid, etc.). Treatment of the disorder often requires sufferers to establish a better sleep routine, some medications (Melatonin, Benzodiazepines and Z-drugs) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Hypersomnia – excessive sleepiness is a condition in which a person has trouble staying awake during the day. People who have hypersomnia can fall asleep at any time; for instance, at work or while they are driving. Causes of the disorder include sleep deprivation), being overweight, drug or alcohol abuse, head injury or a neurological disease (such as multiple sclerosis) and the use of prescription drugs (such as tranquillizers).
Sleep Paralysis – Sleep paralysis is a period of transient, consciously experienced paralysis when either going to sleep or waking up. During an episode, the individual is fully conscious, able to open their eyes but aware that it is not possible to move limbs, head or trunk. The disorder often leaves individuals in a heightened state of anxiety. The cause of the disorder is linked to stress. Fifty percent of the population will experience sleep paralysis at least once in their lifetime. Treatment can include the use of medication (such as sodium oxybate), a good sleep routine can promote a better night’s sleep and psychotherapy can often help those with more severe cases, which are often aggravated by stress.
How to promote a better night’s sleep to help us all sleep like a baby!
- Stick to a sleep schedule — choose the same bedtime and same waking up time (this helps to regulate our body clocks).
- Exercise daily — vigorous exercise is best
- The wind-down — spend an hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.
- Evaluate your bedroom environment—your bedroom should be noise-free and if you struggle with any light consider using blackout blinds/curtains or eye shades. It is also important to sleep on a comfortable mattress with comfortable pillows.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and heavy meals in the evening — alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Spicy food or heavy meals can lead to indigestion!
The secret of a good night’s sleep can prove elusive sometimes, but small changes in our routines could make all the difference to achieving a good night’s rejuvenating sleep, better for both our physical and mental health.