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How did you sleep last night? How do you normally sleep? Was last night’s slumber better than usual, not as good as usual… worse?

We now sleep, on average, 20 percent less than we did a century ago. Back then we were more likely to sleep and wake in in time with the natural rhythms of day and night. Researcher Stanley Coren has shown that a reduction of just 10 per cent can have an effect on how we think and behave.

The sleep statistics for the UK are surprising: One third of us suffer from deprived sleep and a quarter of us feel sleepy in the daytime as a result. Some have difficulty getting to sleep, others wake frequently or sleep so lightly that they are under the impression that they barely sleep at all.

You may be one of them, if you are, how do you feel about that?

You see, losing sleep is bad enough, but feeling bad about it just makes things worse. The stress and worry about how loss of sleep will affect us the following day is enough to keep anyone awake at night. And how you feel about your sleep affects not only how you feel the next day, it can also begin to predict how you’ll sleep on nights to come.

Here’s what to do

There are the obvious lifestyle factors related to healthy sleep. Ensuring good sleep habits can reduce the factors the that contribute to disturbed sleep:

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine
  • Plan your sleep time by relaxing and winding down before bed
  • Avoid alcohol and stimulants during that time (e.g. 2 hours)
  • Ditto technology (mobile phones and computers)
  • Sleep in a nice place; keep bedroom tidy and comfortable, no TV or computer
  • Exercise regularly during the day, eat lightly in the evenings
  • Practice good stress management habits
  • Deal with worries.

Remember, sleep is not a finite resource. If you don’t get enough of it one night, you can always resolve to catch up by doing better next time. Work towards good quality sleep, rather than treating it like a scarce commodity.

See also

Sleep is Sacred (1)

The Sleep Council.

Coren, S. (1997), Sleep Thieves, Free Press, London.


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