March 16th is World Sleep Day - A day dedicated to all things sleep. This year the focus is on the importance of circadian rhythms in healthy sleep, so we’ve teamed up with sleep coach and founder of TweakSleep, Charlie Oulton, to find out his favourite “tweak” for better sleep.
Our ancestors once slept biphasically. They would sleep as normal for half the night, then wake in the middle for a few hours before going back to bed until morning. We have evolved over thousands of years to sync our body clock (circadian rhythm) to the 24 hour day/night cycle - going to bed when the sun goes down, and rising with the sun the next morning. But, in more recent times, thanks to technology, we find ourselves not only sleeping less, but also sleeping poorly.
When Edison patented the commercial electric light bulb in 1862, he gave us the opportunity to control our own ‘daylight’ and our sleep duration dropped from 10 hours to 8 hours per night. We now live in a 24-hour connected society, which is sabotaging our sleep. The Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime report concludes that 74% are sleeping less than the recommended 7 hours per night and 30% sleep poorly most nights and it is certainly affecting energy, mood and performance.
Where are we going wrong?
“Our attitudes towards sleep need to change” says Charlie.
“Some of us think that sleep is ‘boring’, a ‘waste of time’, ‘lonely’, or even ‘frustrating’, but, whatever we think - our thoughts and consequential behaviours shape our outcome.
“Sleep has long been known as the 3rd pillar of health, alongside exercise and nutrition. It’s a great for rejuvenation, principally for your brain, which is amazingly active during sleep: Getting rid of redundant chemicals and memories, shifting short term memories to longer term and re-evaluating emotions. So, if you want to enjoy a better day, plan for a better night.”
Are you sleeping well?
Take the short survey to find out how well you’re sleeping.
Sleep quality or sleep quantity?
“The outcome of our sleep is a combination of quantity and quality. It is easier to influence quantity. We know that we need 7-9 hours on average, so we can plan our time in bed accordingly.
“We are good at getting up in the morning for appointments using our alarm clock, but not nearly so good at going to bed. Many of us intend to go to sleep at, say 11pm, but we self-sabotage by checking emails, getting sucked in to another Netflix binge and a variety of other digital distractions - impacting our sleep quantity.
“Because of our circadian rhythms, sleeping from 10pm - 6am one night, and 3am - 11am the next will affect the quality of our sleep - even though the quantity is the same 8 hours.
The Sleep Tweak
“I like this because it helps with both quantity and quality.”
“Most of us are good at getting up at the same time every morning, because we rely on our alarm clocks. However, we are not so good at going to bed at the same time every night. It’s sometimes ‘just 1 more episode won’t hurt’ that is distracting us from our well needed rest.
“I recommend a bedtime alarm. A gentle nudge to let you know that it’s time to get ready for sleep.
“Work out what time you need to get up: 6.30am for me as I’m a ‘lark’. I need a full 8 hours sleep, plus 15 minutes to fall asleep and 15 minutes to daydream in the morning, so I set a bedtime alarm for 10pm.
“My bedtime alarm ensures that I create enough sleep opportunity, but it also allows me to improve my sleep quality, for no extra effort!
“Try a bedtime alarm for yourself and see what difference it makes to your sleep. You can even sync your alarm to fitness trackers such as Fitbit which will gently vibrate to let you know it’s time for bed.”
TweakSleep is an online service to help everyone sleep better. Using the information you provide, we connect you with a personal Sleep Coach who will work with you to help you improve your sleep, based on your individual needs.
Find out more and register today at www.tweaksleep.com.