What is Sleep?
Sleep is a vital, natural state of rest that gives the body and brain time off to restore and heal. It is crucial for concentration, memory and coordination.
Sleep is also important for employee wellbeing though, unfortunately, is often the first thing we lose when stressed at work, or at home. Whatever the reason, insufficient sleep is a serious health and safety risk and can hinder woekplace wellness.
What is sleep for?
It is clear that, for many of us, it can seem like there are many things more productive than sleep.
Sleep is beneficial for our memory and ability to learn. Studies have shown that those who slept after learning had better performance in tests.
Our ability to concentrate is affected by lack of sleep. This leads to mistakes during the day and can be particularly dangerous whilst on the roads driving, cycling or as a pedestrian. You may not look noticeably sleepy with one or two hours less sleep, but your body and brain can be affected all the same.
Additionally, our moods become affected, as we are not thinking as clearly or effectively, we become irritable and prone to mood swings.
If we do not get enough sleep, we can gain excess weight due to the processing and storage of carbohydrates. Hormone levels become altered, affecting appetite and resulting in slower metabolism and weight gain.
Physically, sleep helps to maintain our immune system. With more sleep our bodies can combat disease and illness in order to recover faster.
What can we do?
Treating our bodies to a regular routine (think about your meals, work and exercise) during the day helps to keep our body clock running smoothly, allowing for regular sleep. Eating three balanced meals and drinking plenty of water is important for our body to know what to do and when.
A Regular sleep pattern, even on the weekend, lets your body know how much rest to expect. Sleeping in on the weekend or taking a daytime nap does not effectively make up for reduced evening sleep – It may reduce your sleep debt but it disrupts the all important sleep-wake cycle that your body depends on.
Preparing for sleep can be as important too. Closing the day’s activities a little while before trying to sleep can give your brain time to slow down before being asked to shut off. If you have things on your mind, make a note of them in another room before going to sleep – you can deal with most things better after good, restful sleep.
Once in bed, go to sleep. Reading, watching TV, eating and using your phone in bed all serve to cause confusion in your brain and body and make your eventual sleep more difficult and less restful.
Something simple to pay attention to is the 90 minute rule. As we sleep our brain goes through cycles of roughly 90 minutes. Waking up in the middle of one of these cycles can be difficult and affect the rest of your day; however, timing your sleep to end between these cycles makes waking up and staying alert much easier.
Take a look at this video for a good explanation.