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Does Britain Really Need More Sleep?

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1 in 5 of us sleep poorly most nights – and it’s costing the nation dear.

Bedtime, for some, is the trickiest part of the day. Climbing the stairs, we are filled with dread about how we are going to get through 8 hours of restless quasi-slumber – and our partners are equally on edge.

If you struggle to get a good night’s sleep – you can “rest” assured that you are not the only one. 22% of Brits say that they sleep poorly most nights, and 5% of us would describe our efforts to grab some shut-eye as “very poor”.

The trouble is, if we are not getting the sleep we need during the small hours, it tends to mean that our work suffers.

“Lack of sleep, combined with high-stress situations, reduces productivity, leads to disconnect at work and loss of motivation”, warns Ines Respini Jones, HR Business Partner at Simply HR Consulting.

In fact, employee burnout costs the UK a whopping £40 billion every year – which is nearly 2% of our GDP!

The statistics make for grim reading – the stuff of nightmares, perhaps – but luckily, help is at hand.

Curtains.com, the curtain and interior design specialists, have published a handy infographic that offers a thoughtful diagnosis of why we may be struggling to switch off at night – it’s because we aren’t doing enough to “switch off” the light.

The darker the room we sleep in, the better the chances of grabbing forty winks, they say. It’s all to do with something called Melatonin.

Exposure to light during our normal hours of sleep can suppress the production of melatonin by as much as 50%. It’s essential that our bodies are always producing melatonin – a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in our brains – because it helps us to control our daily sleep / wake cycles.

People who struggle to sleep often try to compensate in other ways; a common trait is to eat more – an extra 358 calories per day, on average.

According to psychologist and hypnotherapist Sharon Stiles, “prolonged lack of sleep can increase your risk of diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, and possibly Alzheimer’s”.

Insomniacs tend to report higher levels of depression and anxiety, and are 10 times more likely to have clinically significant depression, and 17 times more likely to have clinically significant anxiety.

At school, sleepy children’s performance levels can drop, by as much as 14% for maths related subjects, and 7% for English.

Adults are affected similarly; the UK loses up to 200,000 working days every year thanks to low sleep quality amongst its workforce, which is also responsible for 13% of workplace accidents and 20% of road accidents.

Nightshift workers suffer thanks to difficulties maintaining “Cicadian rhythms”, which are regulated by our exposure to light.

The trick to avoiding a bad night’s sleep? Don’t be a “light” sleeper. According to experts quizzed by Curtains.com, blackout curtains can make a significant difference, thanks to the way they have been designed to:

Block our light from modern car headlights and LED streetlights;

Restrict morning light from flooding the bedroom; and

Helping you to maintain the correct melatonin levels.

Sharon Stiles recommends avoiding bright light in the evenings, using dimmer switches where possible, which will help the body adjust to the gradually fading light, and prepare for the onset of sleep.

So, here’s to seeing the light – and here’s to seeing a lot less of it between the hours of 10pm-8am.

 

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