For the last 13 years, The World Sleep Society has celebrated World Sleep Day to highlight important issues relating to sleep. Every year World Sleep Day is held on the Friday before the Spring Vernal Equinox, which this year falls on Friday 19th March. The theme of this World Sleep Day is ‘Regular Sleep, Healthy Future’ and as we ease out of lockdown what better time to reassess our sleep routines to ensure we are well rested and equipped for a healthy future.
In a review in to ‘Why Sleep Matters’ by Harvard University, it was found that most of us don’t get enough sleep which can lead to a number of short and long term problems. Initially, a lack of sleep can cause issues with learning and productivity with reduced efficiency, errors, and accidents more common. However, the longer you go without sufficient sleep, the more likely you are to suffer from health problems which can include diabetes and heart disease.
So this World Sleep Day, we will be focusing on regular sleep and the benefits that it can offer us. So what is meant by ‘Regular Sleep’? In simple terms, a bedtime routine with regular bedtimes and wake up times. It is not always easy to achieve this though. We all lead such busy lives and so we need to look at various factors which influence our sleep patterns and length of sleep when trying to establish regular sleep patterns. These include the processes of Circadian regulation (our internal clock) and homeostatic control (which promotes sleep based on the previous amount of time you have been awake), as well as the environment, anxiety, stress and any medications or health conditions.
To assist us the World Sleep Society outlines the following steps to achieve regular, healthy sleep:
- Fix a bedtime and an awakening time.
- If you are in the habit of taking a nap, do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime sleep.
- Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion 4 hours before bedtime and do not smoke.
- Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
- Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 hours before bedtime. A light snack before bed is acceptable.
- Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
- Use comfortable bedding (How to choose the best pillow for you ; Find your Perfect Duvet)
- Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated.
- Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
- Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room.
In addition to point 9, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of light on our sleep patterns. An environment with bright lights (including mobile phones, TV, gaming) at bedtime will stop the production of melatonin therefore delaying sleep and will affect our ability to have regular sleep patterns. If you feel you need a night light, opt for Red light as it is less likely to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin production (take a look at the Beurer WL50 Wake Up to Daylight Table Lamp at John Lewis)