Here’s a snippet of the conversation and the topics discussed. Listen to the podcast above to find out more.
Why is sleep so important?
To really answer this question, it’s important to look at what happens if we don’t sleep. Without enough sleep, we feel exhausted and probably grumpier in the morning than usual!
We also know that not getting enough sleep can affect our health and wellbeing in other ways. It can affect our cardiovascular health (the health of our heart and blood vessels), and our immune system. This is the part of your body that helps to fightback against infection. When we’re sleep deprived, it can also be hard to think clearly. This is because a lack of sleep can affect cognition (the process of thought).
In our environment, we can see that motor vehicle accidents happen more often when people haven’t had enough sleep. The contributions that we make to our relationships and working life may also be affected by a lack of sleep.
In short, we sleep to avoid these things, and by getting enough sleep, we can help to mitigate the risk to ourselves and society.
What can I do to improve my sleep?
There are things you can do to improve your sleep. This is known as sleep hygiene and includes things like the following steps.
- Maintaining a regular sleep schedule – so, waking and going to bed at the same time each night. Even on the weekends.
- Making sure your bedroom environment is just right. For example, the temperature not being too hot or cold, removing or blocking any light that might keep you awake, and using ear plugs to reduce noise.
- Not watching TV or looking at screens in bed – remove them from your bedroom completely to avoid temptation.
- Avoiding stimulants like caffeine before bed.
What can we do as a society to improve our sleep?
As Dr Dregan rightly points out in the podcast there are so many ways that our society can start to help people get better sleep. This could mean taking a closer look at people’s living situations, with an emphasis on housing and reducing overcrowding and damp. Or, thinking about the crime levels that people are subjected to in different areas. All of which contribute to people not being able to sleep well.
Urbanicity and things like noise and air pollution levels should also be considered.
Helping people to sleep better means tackling these issues together. And everyone has a part to play, be it the Government and local authorities, to businesses and individuals too.
More specifically, organisations should also seek to take responsibility for their employees’ sleep and think carefully about how they protect it. This could be by becoming more employee-focused and respecting their working hours by encouraging them to ‘switch off’. It could also mean tailoring starting times depending on their chronotype (biological clock) – which could make them either a morning lark or a night owl.
Take a listen to the podcast (above) for more insight into the challenges that we are facing around sleep.
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