It’s like our superpower and it makes everything better!But it can also be the villain of the piece and rob you blind! We are all sick and tired of being told we need to sleep more, sleep better, that power naps are the way to go or not…its confusing and another thing we can stress out about. But here’s the thing we are all different so my 8hrs from 10pm to 6am may not be necessary for you. The most important thing is how you feel. If you’re in a good mood and alert when you get up, those are indications that your sleep habits are working for you. Shorter sleep times aren’t entirely negative either though as the body can compensate for shorter periods of time with more effective sleep e.g. naps!
But the one thing we are not all different about is skip just one good ‘night’s’ sleep for you and it has serious consequences. A recent study* in Norway saw a flattening of emotions following a single night of poor sleep. Positive feelings scored worse after just one night of reduced sleep, and dropped even more after three nights. We already know that fewer positive emotions have a major impact on our ability to be resilient and creative in problem solving. Not only this but the researchers also found a link between sleep deprivation, learning, and reaction time. Whereas the participants performed better and better each day they took the test after sleeping normally, they scored worse on accuracy each day after a night of insufficient sleep
You need sleep before during and after learning. Sleep allows the brain to get the professional cleaning company in and each night it clears out all the toxins of the day’s activities. Without sleep, the memory networks in the brain, particularly a 'the hippocampus', get shut down and this means any incoming memory doesn’t make it from the short term to long term memory. You simply can’t learn! Sleep also has another superpower it allows new memories to be woven into the memory banks giving us novel connections and associations. This is called 'consolidation'. Each morning you really do wake up as a new you. ”.
But how long we sleep is just part of the picture, ‘when’ we sleep is also vitally important. An irregular sleep wake cycle can be worse than sleeping too little. Going to bed and getting up at the same time is recommended. Your body budget will then work optimally as your brain will have more certainty and as such will be better able to manage your energy for the day. And don’t think the lie in on your day off will be a permanent fix. The world we find ourselves in gives us rhythms of work and leisure cycle that is often at a mismatch with the body’s internal biological clock. If the differences in sleep timing and duration between work days and days off become too large, this can lead to what is termed “social jetlag”.
The technical name for your sleep wake cycle is the circadian rhythm and it works on a 24hr cycle. But here’s the thing you don’t just have one body cycle clock you have thousands from all the different organs cells to multiple clocks inside the brain. But you do have one central master clock located in your brain which co-ordinates all of these keeping them all showing the same time. And guess what…cortisol, that stress hormone we have all heard about plays a big part in this. You get a peak in the morning and this gives you the push to wake up. But if you are under chronic stress we are flooding our systems with cortisol and this throws out of master clock. Now you have levels of cortisol in your system that you by rights should only have if you are being kicked out of bed by your master clock. So you now start a cascade of feelings at the wrong times and if you add things like caffeine or strenuous exercise too late in the day it raises the cortisol levels disturbing your clock even more.
So now we know that stress is directly connected to sleep via cortisol we can use this to our advantage. We can strengthen our resilience by strengthening out body clocks. Melatonin your sleep hormone plays a big role here. Your sleep hormone is released by your master clock and tells all the other clocks is sleepy time. But it’s also important that its curbed in the morning for it to be restorative.
Daylight exposure can help combat any negative blue light effects from screen time.** Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—but not obviously the best thing for getting some shuteye. Dawn light even 10 mins is a super charge while dimming lights in your home at dusk. I never use my central lights on the ceiling in my rooms I always use lamps as its easier to create and control the light.2. Eat & be merry!
If eggs & bananas be the food of melatonin eat on! Storoni in her book “Stress Proof” tells us why – both of these have the amino acid tryptophan and vitamin B6 and this is what your body uses to make melatonin. Try to eat these for breakie to get their biggest hit. In fact, try to front load your food intake to the daylight hours as this is when your body clock says it should have it. .3. I’m so excited!
Even too much ‘good’ stress in the form of excitement will throw your melatonin production out. A few giddy nights out with your pals won’t hurt overall but generally try not to watch that blockbusters action movie just before going to bed.
*“Mild to moderate partial sleep deprivation is associated with increased impulsivity and decreased positive affect in young adults”. by Ingvild Saksvik-Lehouillier,Simen Berg Saksvik,Johanna Dahlberg,Tiril K Tanum,Heidi Ringen,Håvard Rudi Karlsen,Trine Smedbøl,Torhild Anita Sørengaard,Mailen Stople,Håvard Kallestad,Alexander Olsen.
**“Two hours of evening reading on a self-luminous tablet vs. reading a physical book does not alter sleep after daytime bright light exposure” by Frida H. Rångtell, Emelie Ekstrand, Linnea Rapp, Anna Lagermalm, Lisanne Liethof, Marcela Olaya Búcaro, David Lingfors, Jan-Erik Broman, Helgi B. Schiöth, and Christian Benedict in Sleep Medicine. Published online July 25 2016 doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2016.06.016
If this sparked an interest & you would like to find out a bit more about how you can build your resilience and perform at your best, then…I'd love to hear from you!
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