1. The True Cost of Sleep Deprivation

      Sleep deprivation is thought to cost the UK economy over £40bn a year in lost productivity in the workplace (source: smallbusiness.co.uk). Friday 15th March is World Sleep Day and a good time to be reminded why a good night’s rest is so important.

      Everyone needs a different amount, but they key is to ensure sleep patterns are regular, uninterrupted and leave you feeling refreshed and raring to go on waking.

      Whilst asleep we commit new information and experiences to memory, and this is also the time when our body kicks our immune system into healing and repair mode. Our brain temporarily cools and our stress hormone production is reduced, giving our adrenal glands a much-needed rest.

      Waking rested and recharged can temper mood and emotions; helping us cope more effectively with anything stressful thrown at us during the day. It can also improve with concentration, learning new skills, and with creativity and decision making.

      The true cost of sleep deprivation can, however, be far-reaching; and not just at work. We all know the effects of jetlag after a long-haul flight, or ongoing fatigue whilst working long hours or shift patterns, with the resulting struggle to function well after a disturbed night. More often than not, this can leave us run down and can lead to at the very least, low level illness such as coughs, colds and infections.

      All hormones will take a hit to some extent when the sleep debt racks up (think adrenal stress, thyroid dysfunction and reproductive problems), but our digestive hormones in particular can suffer. A lack of sleep can severely disrupt appetite regulation and lead to overeating and associated medical conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. More worryingly, it is thought to leave us more susceptible to a number of chronic conditions associated with a compromised immune system including chronic inflammation, Alzheimer’s Disease and even cancer.

      So what can you do to improve your sleep patterns?

      • Switch off any stimulating media or electronic devices well before bed time. This gives the brain a chance to relax away from artificial stimulation. Use an old-style alarm clock to wake you, and not your phone!
      • Look carefully at diet and nutrition. Some foods help produce hormones such as melatonin which encourage a state of sleep; whilst others (such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol) have the reverse effect. Eating and drinking the right things at the right time of day can make a significant difference.
      • Check your bedroom is the correct temperature; not too hot and not too cold, and make sure it is fully dark at bedtime. Natural light tricks the brain into thinking we should be awake by releasing cortisol (our waking hormone), and suppressing melatonin (our sleep hormone).
      • A warm bath with Epsom salts before bed can be really beneficial. The magnesium sulphate in these is absorbed through the skin and aids relaxation. You don’t need to necessarily buy expensive bath salts; basic Epsom salt crystals will do the trick and you can add some lavender drops for even more relaxation.
      • Chamomile tea or a milk based drink is also great at bedtime.