Who needs sleep?
We sleep less than ever before. Sleep deprivation affects more people than not and only 30% of the British population regularly get the recommended amount of sleep per night (7+ hours). Not sleeping well affects more people than not, yet the majority of those affected haven't taken any steps to try and fix the problem. We've started to accept sleep deprivation as a natural state of being.
Sleep is vital to our health and wellbeing. After just one night of insufficient sleep, we're tired, less focused and more irritable. After several nights, concentration becomes significantly impaired, we zone out and have short periods where we stop processing information - our brains effectively go to sleep without us even realizing it. Changes in mood become more serious and we're more accident prone. We start having microsleeps where our brain stops processing information for around 30 seconds without us noticing it - which is particularly dangerous when driving.
Just a few bad nights is enough to increase the risk of developing dementia, Altzheimers, Type 2 Diabetes, Asthma, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, stress, insomnia, obesity and arthritis. Our immune system is less effective and we're more prone to infection. Those who already experience health problems, experience worsening symptoms. Blood glucose levels are harder to control all day after one night of poor or reduced sleep. So are asthma and cardiovascular symptoms.
Most of reach for the wrong solutions. We consume more caffeine to keep us away during the day - which then also keeps us up the next night. We are more likely to skip exercise because we feel tired and exercising leads to poorer sleep quality. We're more likely to snack on sugar and simple carbohydrates and overeat at dinner, which again leads to poorer sleep quality the next night. The less we sleep, the more our brain shuts down. We stop planning longterm, we stop being motivated by delayed gratification and reach for instant gratification instead - which are usually unhealthy indulgences. We reward ourselves for working so hard with all the wrong things.
Sleep is vital. How do we get a good night's sleep?
Investing in a sturdy bed frame, quality mattress, supportive pillow and breathable bedding with moisture wicking and thermal control is one of the best ways to improve your quality of sleep. We sleep better when we're comfortable. Get a Goldilocks bed that's just right.
Dim the lights
Bright environments keep us alert. We've filled our evenings with bright light when one of the crucial aspects of a good bedtime routine is to dim the lights a while before going to bed. Blue spectrum light is a particular problem - it tricks our bodies into thinking it's the middle of the day - so invest in warmer spectrum and dimmable lights for the bedroom (if not the whole house). Set screens to automatically cut out blue light in the evening - most modern devices now have this as a built-in functionality.
Make the night dark again
We flood our nights with lights on a global scale. It's almost impossible to find anywhere that doesn't have at least a glow on the horizon from nearby towns, roads and cities. There isn't much we as individuals can do about outdoor lighting, but we can make it dark inside our homes. Invest in block-out curtains, lining and blinds. Keep electronic devices with little lights on them outside the bedroom. Put your phone in a drawer when you go to bed.
Children are scared of the dark and an easy solution is to get a nightlight for their room. Resist the temptation. We picked up a Gro-Clock with dimmable lighting (and the option to completely turn off back-lighting) when our daughter was still little to give her access to information without lighting up her room. We also have a small magnetic touch light on her bed that she can tap when she wakes up in the dark and carry with her to the toilet. Access to light when you wake up is a far better solution than just keeping the house dimly lit all night long.
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hack noun 1. … a quick or inelegant solution to a particular problem. 2. A strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently.
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