World Sleep Day 2017

March 18, 2017

When a Sydneysider dropped me a text yesterday reading in part; Hey Contador Harrison, its march 17 2017, World sleep day, chuck a sickie and sleep!, I didn’t get surprised because back in schoolies most folks used to do that to skive classes especially science and maths. As long as you are in business or employment, we are all in the grip of a sleep deprivation epidemic that is dragging down our productivity, risking safety and damaging mental health. Thats what makes World Sleep Day, an important one.Research in Africa has found 54 per cent of adults sleep either poorly or not long enough most nights, leaving them to face the new day with fatigue, irritability and other side effects of sleep deprivation.The study shows alarmingly high rates of internet use just before bed, particularly among women, and carries admissions from three in six people that they’ve nodded off while driving. These worrying results just go to show that sleep is not the health priority it needs to be but just like obesity, smoking, drinking too much and not exercising enough, sleep problems cause real harm in our lives. It’s high time we moved this issue off the backburner to the forefront of individual and strategic thinking. According to data published by fitness tracking company Fitbit, Singaporeans are among the worst sleepers globally, clocking in an average of just 6.56 hours of sleep a night although Japanese and Indians are worse than Singaporeans. Kiwis as New Zealanders are known, have the most amount of sleep with an average of 7.25 hours per night. The data was compiled from aggregated data from Fitbit users from 18 countries between January to December 2016.

Based on that, I sought views of a health expert based in Wyandra, South West Queensland about what can help those having challenges to get a decent sleep. She advised that getting regular exercise during the day helps to feel tired at night and being active increases metabolism and manage stress more effectively which in turn will improve sleeping time.Apparently, depending on your bedroom status, the more sleep-friendly it is, the better. She advised that creating a sleeping environment can be achieved by turning it into a dark, quiet, clean and comfortable haven. Also avoiding distractions like mobile phones, Tvs and pets is significant. In the case of your blogger, his old habits of book reading weren’t considered a minus by the health expert. Meals just before going to bed aren’t ideal according to her as the body requires time to digest the food before sleep. She did however tell me that its equally disastrous to go to bed hungry and in worst case scenario, a light snack before sleeping time is ideal. Doing away with caffeine helps to stabilise sleep. I was also told that non-smokers get better sleep than smokers. She confessed to your blogger that in her case, she has developed a relaxing night-time routine that prepares her body and mind for sleep. Some of her daily rituals include taking a hot bath and listening to calming music. Also, she doesn’t have bright lights and avoids heated convos just before sleep time. Add relaxing and unwinding, and one gets a super sleep, she added.Rather that turn and toss and turn, she advised that its better to get up and do something else instead like trying something relaxing like reading or listening to music until you feel tired.

What she didnt however tell me was whether one should use headphones or not. In conclusion she said keeping a regular sleep schedule isn’t an option but a must. For example going to sleep and getting up at the same time every day can help get into a good sleep routine. There are many things that can be done to improve sleep. While most of these are common sense, life is very busy and we often don’t think about them.Good sleep helps mind works more actively to practice skills learned while awake, a consolidation process that boosts memory. Apparently, there have been studies showing there are more deaths occurring in people who slept for less than five hours compared to those who sleep more.Studies have also been published indicating people who take less than six hours of sleep are more likely to have high blood pressure than ones who sleep more. No doubt sleep is as essential for good health and I agree with Wyandra health experts that sleep is important for restoring physical and mental health. It refreshes the mind and repairs the body. Lack of sleep, or sleep deprivation, can cause fatigue, poor concentration and memory, mood disturbances, impaired judgement and reaction time, and poor physical coordination. Certainly, the body’s internal clock regulates when and how we sleep depending on the amount of light around us. Whether it is rapid eye movement sleep which occurs regularly during sleep, about once every one and half to two hours which makes up about a quarter of our night’s sleep or non rapid eye movement which includes dozing, losing awareness of surroundings, deep sleep where growth and repair processes occur, sleep is important just like food or oxygen.

Contador Harrison