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Are you getting enough sleep?

 SleepThere are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. After waking up in the morning, could you fall back asleep at 10 or 11am?
  2. Can you function optimally without caffeine before noon?
  3. If you didn’t set an alarm, what time would you wake up at?

If you think that you are not getting enough sleep, or the quality of sleep isn’t sufficient, there may be a few things you can change.

Most of us like a coffee in the morning (Dr Laura included!) but what does caffeine do to the sleep cycle? Caffeine suppresses adenosine (a sleep hormone) which increases the desire to sleep. This effect can last up to 5-7 hours. So if bed time is 10pm, you should re-think that afternoon caffeine hit as it could be preventing you falling asleep when you get settled in bed. Caffeine is in various food products, and don’t underestimate the effect of caffeine in a cup of tea!

The other aspect of sleep which is highly researched, is the amount of sleep us humans should be attaining. Some people say that they can manage on 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night. The research would disagree with this – these people potentially have gotten used to such a small amount of sleep, that this is ‘normal’ for them. The reason why we should be getting 8 hours of sleep per night is due to the different cycles of sleep. When we are awake, we are taking in information and experiences – in other words, we are learning. During non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep (or deep sleep), we are reflecting on that information – we are sorting through and strengthening the information from the day. The final stage of sleep is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (dream sleep). This is the integration part – interconnecting the information to form a more accurate model of the world around (including innovating insights and problem-solving abilities). Most of our REM sleep occurs in the latter hours of sleep – but this means we have to have a certain amount of time asleep before we gain the most from REM sleep. So if you are cutting short your sleep, you miss out a lot of the interconnection of information learnt the previous day.


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