The Science of The Perfect Night's Sleep
- Written by Elise Hendriksen
Sleep disturbance is endemic; We are sleeping one to two hours less per day than 100 years ago.
Sleep disturbance has become a major personal and medical concern. Good decisions, productivity and teamwork are all hindered by exhaustion. The cost to our development, lives, health and productivity, is enormous.
“Many studies reveal the significant cost of employee presenteeism (reduced productivity due to attending work while physically or mentally unwell). A recent study based on Australian workers shows the association between poor sleep quality and quantity with higher presenteeism," says Stuart Taylor, Founder of The Resilience Institute Australia.
Coordination, attention, decision making and impulse control all suffer, while cardiovascular risk, blood pressure, metabolic disorders (obesity and diabetes) and immune system dysfunction increase.
The Resilience Institute recently released the findings of a three year study measuring the resilience of 16,000 people across 250 organisations. 43.3% of all respondents ranked highly on questions relating to tiredness and fatigue.
“Sleep and rest are vital to our health and wellbeing. Technology among other factors, has disrupted our body clocks and the first step to getting a good nights sleep, is understanding the science behind it,” says Taylor.
Sleep is subject to biological clocks; Our circadian Rhythm is a 24.5 hour cycle built into the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Sitting just behind the eyes, this clock is paced and regulated by light, in particular, requiring blue light in the early hours of the day to effectively re-set.
Upon waking, our body temperature rises, cortisol is released, blood pressure rises, testosterone peaks and we are alert, co ordinated and effective. During the day, we build up adenosine which in high levels increases our propensity for sleep. The longer we are alert, the deeper our delta-wave sleep. After 7pm our body temperature drops, at 9pm melatonin secretion begins and we drop into a deep sleep somewhere between 10pm and 2am. Growth hormone is active during this stage, facilitating repair, growth and immunity.
A good night’s sleep rejuvenates our cells, builds muscle and repairs the brain, while REM sleep (dreaming) is essential to memory and emotional intelligence.
Our suffering today is largely due to a disrupted circadian rhythm. We are perpetually desynchronised by artificial light, heating, electronics and sleep debt. We are not exposed to adequate blue light in the early part of the day.
There are some actions we can take to combat these factors and re-set our body clocks.
12 tips to improve your sleep:
- Commit to a regular wake up time – preferably around dawn
- Get vigorous exercise early in the day
- Take powernaps – 15 minutes after lunch
- Avoid caffeine after 2pm
- Have an early and light evening meal
- Limit alcohol and protein intake
- Ditch TV, laptops and gadgets after 7pm (or at least 2 hours before bed)
- Cool, darken and quieten your bedroom
- Remove TV, phones and laptops from bedroom
- Develop a relaxation routine before sleep
- Discharge sleep debt by going to bed early (rather than sleeping in)
- Aim for 7 to 8 hours sleep per night
For further information and resources, please visit http://www.resiliencei.com/
* The Association Between Physical Activity, Sitting Time, Sleep Duration, and Sleep Quality as Correlates of Presenteeism; Guertler, Vandelanotte, Short, Alley, Schoeppe & Duncan, 2015
About The Resilience Institute
Based in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, The Resilience Institute works with senior executives and the entire employee base to build organisational and personal resilience. The Resilience Institute uses an evidence-based approach to introduce the personal disciplines of sustainable high performance within a meaningful life. The Resilience Institute achieves sustainable and measurable improvements using assessment instruments, consulting reviews, workshop interventions and personal coaching. www.resiliencei.com
About Stuart Taylor
Stuart Taylor is an experienced facilitator with qualifications in psychology, finance, IT and engineering. Stuart has worked extensively in government, professional services, banking and finance, energy, telecommunications and manufacturing sectors. In 2002, while climbing the corporate ladder to corporate executive, Stuart was diagnosed with brain cancer: prognosis 2.5 years. Far from accept the prognosis, Stuart embarked on a journey back to physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual health. Part of this journey included creating The Resilience Institute in Australia to share his experience and philosophy.
More information at http://www.assertivehumility.com/ and http://www.resiliencei.com/