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Sleep is one of the foundations of all health and almost every living thing has some need for it to survive. Interestingly, there isn’t a general consensus on exactly why we sleep, but what we do know is that sleep affects almost every aspect of our lives from physical health, mental health and wellbeing, to our attention and relationships.

Back in 2004, the World Health Organisation identified that…

“Around 30-35% of the general population complain about sleep problems and 9-11% suffer from chronic insomnia”.

More recently, in 2018, the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that around 100 million people in America suffer from sleep disorders and the statistics are similar for the UK.

Racking up sleep debts

When we lose sleep and dip below the recommended 7-9 hours, (or below our own usual routine), we incur ‘Sleep Debt’. Losing an hour or two of sleep might not seem like a big deal, but it adds up and over the course of a week you could lose an entire night’s worth of sleep due to sleep debt.

Sleep debt_Future Proof Learning

After a few days of losing just one or two hours of sleep, our ability to function suffers as much as if we hadn’t slept at all for one or two days.

Taking action

The good news is that there’s a lot that we can do (and stop doing) to improve our sleep and to start feeling better. The list is long, but we’ve decided to focus on a couple of quick and effective wins.

You can also make the most of your untapped potential through coaching. Future Proof Learning specialises in Individual and Team Coaching and have delivered more than 2000 hours in the last year alone. So, if you’d like to investigate the power of coaching, please book a free 1 hour coaching session in my diary. You’ll come away from the session with a clear path to achieving your goals and it’ll give you some precious headspace.

Imposing caffeine curfews

Caffeine is a constant in our lives and most of us rely on it to some extent to give us a little boost, to stay awake and alert. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cup of coffee or tea, caffeine can have a significant impact on our sleep.

The half-life of caffeine is around 5 hours for most people but can be up to 9.5 hours. This means that for many of us it takes 10 hours for our bodies to process but it could take up to 19 hours.

Caffeine levels

So, if you have a coffee after lunch, it’ll still be in your system when you go to bed at night (on top of any other caffeine you’ve ingested through the day). It might not sound like such a big deal but caffeine is shown to hamper our ability to fall and stay asleep.

This isn’t a public health warning against caffeine, it’s a message to be mindful of the amount that we ingest. The solution? A caffeine curfew. Okay, so it’s not the sexiest idea in the world but it is hugely effective!

Assuming that most people go to bed around 22:00, stopping caffeine after 14:00 allows the effects to wear off before we go to bed for the night. It’ll likely be a bit of an adjustment at first but it quickly becomes a habit, and you’ll be cutting off your caffeine consumption before you know it.

Blocking blue light at night

Blue light is a form of light which makes up about a third of all visible light and helps to regulate our circadian rhythm. The biggest source of blue light is the sun, so we’re conditioned to be more alert during the day and be sleepier or more relaxed when it’s dark.

Our eyes struggle to block blue light and any prolonged exposure to it affects our sleep, particularly if we’re exposed to it at night.

Other than the sun, blue light comes from almost every electronic device, such as lighting, TVs, computers, tablets and mobile phones so it’s almost impossible to avoid it entirely but there are several things we can do about it:

  • Use a blue light filter on your smartphone if using it at night (many smartphones have these built in).
  • Try to turn down the lighting in your house where possible, letting the house get darker as the evening moves on.
  • Do you need all the electronic devices in your bedroom? Try removing some to reduce unnecessary blue light.
  • Consider getting blackout curtains or blinds for your bedroom so the room is as dark as possible.
  • Stop using your smartphone in bed and instead try to relax before sleep. Nobody misses a few minutes of aimless scrolling, do they?

Why we should all harness ‘The Power of Sleep’

It is interesting to learn that more car accidents are caused by being drowsy than by alcohol and drugs combined. Driving when you’re tired is, therefore, more dangerous than drink driving!

Research also shows that lack of sleep causes mood swings. As the American entrepreneur E. Joseph Cossman said:

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”

Matthew Walker sums up the importance of sleep very neatly in his seminal book ‘Why We Sleep’:

“We are, as you will see, socially, organisationally, economically, physically, behaviourally, nutritionally, linguistically, cognitively, and emotionally dependent upon sleep.”

You can also make the most of your untapped potential through coaching. We specialise in Individual Coaching and Team Coaching and have delivered more than 2000 hours in the last year alone. So, if you’d like to investigate the power of coaching, please book a free 1 hour coaching session in my diary. You talk, I listen, and we work together to break down your challenges and identify your next steps. You’ll come away from the session with a clear path to achieving your goals and it’ll give you some precious headspace.

Koala sleeping_jordan-whitt-EerxztHCjM8-unsplash