Dr Neil Stanley is an independent UK sleep expert who works with healthcare professionals, schools, charities and the general public.
He has realized over the years that you can’t change the world but you can change individuals and if he can change one persons mind about the importance of sleep, he feels that is a job well done.
We all know that sleep is important. Research shows that teenagers are the most aware of the negatives of poor sleep and yet they are the least likely to change their behaviour. Our social media and streaming is designed for us to have access 24/7. Binge watching the latest show is more exciting than sleep. We have an excuse to stay awake.
Sleep is important for balance, mentally and physically. The body and brain can rest and recuperate as we lay down memories, deal with emotions or learn new behaviours and thoughts, it is the only time that we physically grow.
Poor sleep on a daily basis means that you don’t do as well at work, your reaction time are slower, your memory is affected, your relationships are affected, you lack empathy, you feel more miserable and you will be at a greater risk of developing infection. Long term poor sleep has been connected to every major illness – heart disease, obesity, depression, a stroke and even some cancers.
We have somehow excepted not feeling great, as the norm. We take vitamins and energy drinks but still don’t do the one thing that we could do every night to make us feel better, which is sleep.
We need to see that sleep is important. It is more important than diet or exercise in terms of good health.
Diet and exercise have been made to be sexy and aspirational. If you run 3 miles a day people say “well done!”. If you say you go to bed at 9pm and are up at 6am…. people think you are a sad person with no friends. Sleep is seen as laziness or a waste of time and there is no money to be made in it.
The amount of sleep we need is individual and genetically determined. We are all different. It is important to get the number of hours sleep that you need as an individual – that could be between 4-11 hours and you will need that every night so that you feel at your best. The sleep you need is the sleep that allows you to wake up feeling refreshed, awake, alert and focused during the day.
The biggest enemy of sleep is worry, stress and anxiety. We need to quiet the mind and put the day to one side by switching off and doing something relaxing. All relaxation is individual – hot milky drink, meditation, mindfulness, reading, music. Most peoples bed time routine is to switch the TV off, brush their teeth and flop into bed. You need to do something 30mins before bed that is nice, quiet and relaxing. You as an individual need to find out what that may be.
Screens are cognitively arousing, telling the brain that we are awake, and suppressing the melatonin that we need to sleep. Many people use their mobile phones as alarm clocks and have them right next to the bed, which makes it difficult to resist the temptation of picking it up.
The advice for waking up in the middle of the night is to not lie in bed. Lying in bed may make you feel anxious and frustrated. If you have woken up and are unable to sleep for more than 20 mins, get up and do something else relaxing until you feel sleepy again and go back to bed. The most common reason for waking up is your bed partner, with the movements or noises that they make.
Napping is beneficial and can boost performance. The question you must ask is why do you need to nap during the day? If you have had enough sleep at night you won’t need this.
Dr Neil Stanley’s Book: How to sleep well is being released on 27th July 2018. It is based upon the common sense of making small changes to get a better night sleep. It is a book about living your life happier, healthier and more productively, by giving sleep more importance in your life.
Most people don’t have a problem with their sleep, they simply just can’t be bothered. But if you do get a good night’s sleep you will be a happier, healthier and nicer person. That to be a good thing!
You can order Dr Neil Stanley’s book at www.thesleepconsultancy.com