Sleep is one of the most relaxing and important factors in life, providing the opportunity to refuel before an important sport match or a challenging test. Yet, as the business in one’s life increases with every new task, the importance of sleep has been dismissed. With the new business that pervades culture, sleep for health and success is more important to refocus on than ever before.
Sleep for Health and Success
Sleep for Performance
The newly appointed head teacher of a failing Academy in Gt. Yarmouth, Norfolk made the news headlines recently when he told parents to put their kids to bed. He told parents that students should be in bed by 9pm each night and up again at 6.30am.
Mr Barry Smith was brought in when results at the Academy were found to be one of the worst in the country with just 30 percent of Year 11 students achieving a pass in English and math. Mr Smith is the co-founder, and former deputy principal, of Michaela Community School in Wembley Park, north-west London which was reputed as being one of the toughest schools in the country.
Many parents were up in arms with the many ‘old school’ rules and regulations that Mr Barry was proposing. You can read the news article on Daily Mail.
Sleep for Health
A few weeks ago we looked at the importance of routine on health where we reported that routines will help with:
• Reducing stress
• Help us to sleep better
• Improves our physical activity
• Aids weight loss
• Reduces anxiety
• Helps us to achieve success
However, Mr Barry did not make reference to the routine; he was suggesting there were benefits to the physical act of sleep.
The Benefits of Sleep
Most of us know that we NEED sleep in order to actually feel healthy. But what are the effects of a lack of sleep on our ability to learn and beyond?
An article published in the Times Education Supplement, written by Cindy Woodbridge reported that, “students retained more information after sleeping, but their ability to understand and apply that information received the biggest benefit with sleep”.
Woodbridge concludes her report by stating “sleep is the easiest way for your students to study. Getting a good night’s sleep will help considerably with retaining information in class, understanding that information, and learning new information. In other words, students are much more likely to do well on ANY kind of test if they get a good night’s sleep every night”.
An article on Psychology Today states that:
1. Sleep is restorative for the brain.
2. The different pieces of what we’ve learned during the day come together when we sleep, so that the knowledge can be accessed when needed.
3. School performance improves in kids with sleep apnea after it has been treated.
What the experts say….
A 2009 study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children ages seven and eight who got less than about eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive. health.com informs us that children between the ages of 10 and 16 who have sleep disordered breathing, which includes snoring, sleep apnea, and other types of interrupted breathing during sleep, are more likely to have problems with attention and learning, according to a 2010 study in the Journal Sleep. This could lead to “significant functional impairment at school”.
A lack of sleep can result in ADHD-like symptoms in kids, Dr. Rapoport says, “Kids don’t react the same way to sleep deprivation as adults do,” he adds, “Whereas adults get sleepy, kids tend to get hyperactive.”
There’s no wonder that an educationalist would be recommending his students sleep in order to help them remain focused, digest the information, and stay on task. Reducing hyperactivity and improving success in their studies too – surely that’s a no brainer!
What are the benefits of a good night sleep for the rest of us?
The Mental Health Database of the United Kingdom raises awareness to the fact that poor health affects sleep and vice versa. Mental health problems like depression and anxiety often go hand in hand with sleep problems.
A high percentage of patients with depression also present with sleep problems. Poor sleep contributes to an increased risk of suicide.
There have been studies completed which show that children (89%) and adults (55%) with short sleep duration were more likely to become obese. Contributory factors are put down to the fact that our appetite hormones may become disrupted. This may result in higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite which can lead to an inability to feel full. These combined with a lack of motivation to exercise equate to an energy input and energy output imbalance leading to weight gain.
Sleeping less than six hours per night has repeatedly shown to cause an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes. Sleep deprivation can cause pre-diabetes in healthy adults, in as little as 6 days. You can read more about this study in the following publication.
Studies show that sleep can have major effects on inflammation in the body. Sleep deprivation may activate inflammation, cause cell damage, and have a long-term inflammation of the digestive tract found in disorders known as inflammatory bowel diseases. Sleep may also help patients with Crohn’s disease as good sleepers were twice less-likely to relapse.
Sleeping less than seven to eight hours per night can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Dr Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City says, “If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress. With that, people can have better control of their blood pressure. It’s also believed that sleep affects cholesterol levels, which plays a significant role in heart disease.”
Improve your Sporting Performance
We know that many football teams will stay near the stadium prior to a match but Manchester City now provides their players the opportunity to stay at home, as many of us know that we sleep better in our own bed. Quality sleep is known to have a direct affect on athletic performance.
A study at Stanford University found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.
There is some evidence to suggest that both too much and too little sleep can affect your life span, but nothing have been conclusive.
How do we improve our quality of sleep?
Firstly, think about these three factors:
www.mentalhealth.org.uk suggests that we think about what we eat and drink before we go to bed. ‘Stimulants like caffeine can make it harder to sleep, and a heavy or sugary meal close to bedtime can make sleep uncomfortable. Alcohol might seem to help you get to sleep, but it reduces the quality of sleep later. Taking exercise during the day is also a good way to aid sleep, but exercise releases adrenaline so exercising during the evening may be less helpful.’
Try to avoid using any electronic gadgets for an hour before you go to bed as visual stimuli will affect your ability to sleep.
Establish a routine; maybe a warm, relaxing bath or a milky drink beforehand. Whatever routine you adhere to, it will help your body establish a circadian rhythm which will help you to sleep.
Where you sleep is important. Ideally sleep should be in a bed and in the bedroom. You will need to consider the temperature, noise levels and lighting.
A good night’s sleep
Aim for 7.5-9 hours of sleep per night. This will vary from person to person, but most adults need somewhere between 7.5-9 hours for optimal health.
Failing to have a good night’s sleep is like failing to train for a race, or fill up on fuel prior to a car journey. If you experience problems sleeping, speak to your doctor to discuss techniques that may help.