If you’re setting wellness goals in 2016, make sure you put sleep in as a priority. Last year the buzzword was “mindfulness”. I predict in 2016 we’ll see the start of a sleep revolution – a focus on improving sleep habits.
It’s time to reclaim your sleep.
It’s no secret that we don’t get enough sleep. It enhances everything – your health, your mood, and your physical and mental performance.
In the corporate world the sleep conversation is starting to change. I spent 20 years in the corporate world bragging with my colleagues about 2am finishes and 6am starts. We wore fatigue like a badge of honour. Now we’re beginning to understand how stupid that is. Corporate Wellness programs centre around sleep, fatigue management and sleep improvement strategies.
How important is a good night’s sleep?
We intuitively know that sleep is important. I think it’s one of the most important behavioral experiences you do in your life. If you sleep on average 7.5 hours a night by the time you’re 90 you would have slept for 32 years.
There is mounting evidence that our nation and the world is becoming seriously sleep deprived. Research shows in the 1950s most people were getting an average of 8 hours sleep a night, today the average is 6.5 hours sleep a night. It is even worse for shift workers.
The Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research reports if you’ve been awake for 17 hours your performance is reduced to the same level as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading of 0.05g / 100ml. This makes you twice as likely to have an accident. Stay awake 24 hours and your BAC equivalent is 0.1g /100ml. The TAC estimate 20% of fatal road accidents involve driver fatigue.
Why is sleeping so hard?
Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist. He says it’s sleeping is hard because it seems like you’re not doing anything while you’re sleeping.
“You don’t eat. You don’t drink, and you don’t have sex. Well, most of us anyway. So therefore I thought of it as a complete waste of time,” he says in a TEDGlobal talk in 2013.
But we all know, intuitively, that sleeping isn’t a waste of time.
There are three accepted theories Congratulations on why we sleep:
- It’s restorative – a whole raft of genes are only turned on while we sleep, and most are associated with restoration and metabolic pathways
- For energy conservation – we only save about 110 calories over the course of a night, not so convincing, but a theory none-the-less.
- For brain processing and memory consolidation.
Foster’s studies show that if you deprive people from sleeping learning a new task, their ability to learn is “smashed”.
“What’s turned out to be really exciting, is that our ability to come up with novel solutions to complex problems is hugely enhanced by a night of sleep. In fact, it’s been estimated to give us a threefold advantage. Sleeping at night enhances our creativity,” says Foster.
Learn to sleep better
You can stick to your old busy story and continue to brag about lack of sleep, or you can take action and improve your sleeping habits and the rest of your life.
Like running a good marathon, good sleep doesn’t just happen. You have to plan for it and stick to it when you get tempted to stray of on the I wrong path.
Key tips to improve your sleep
- Acknowledge that sleep is critically important to your health.
- Place a priority on sleep and having a bedtime routine.
- Turn off all electronics an hour before bed.
- The bedroom is for two things and one of them is not social networking on Facebook or doing email.
- Try and go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.
- Make your room cooler and don’t have a warm shower just before bed.
Fix your sleep problems
The Chernobyl and Space Shuttle Challenger disasters were attributed to poor judgement as a result of tiredness. On a more everyday scale, it is all about your brain, your health and your performance.
Sleep deprivation is a serious issue. Studies show that consistently getting less than 7 hours a night can lead to:
- Increased stroke risk,
- Increased chance of diabetes,
- Increased memory loss,
- Increased cancer risk,
- Increased risk of heart disease,
- Decreased mental health,
- Increased chance of long term stress,
- And, it can kill you early.
The key point is sleep is fundamentally important. So if you don’t sleep well make 2016 the year you do something about it.
Andre Obradovic is a fatigue management coach certified by CIRCADIAN® AUSTRALIA. My Sleep Analysis Improvement Program will help you identify underlying issues damaging your sleep quality, and then work through these issues. Find out more here.