Sports Pitch

'Sleep Well' from the Team at Hampden Sports Clinic

Last updated: 7.00am, Friday 19th March 2021 by

How Well Do You Sleep?

This is a good question to ask ourselves and can vary depending what stage of life we are in, never mind being in the middle of a pandemic. Most people can identify periods in their lives when they slept poorly, whether from having a young family, financial or personal worries, a painful injury, noisy neighbours to mention a few.

Some of these we can influence and others not, hopefully some support regarding stress and anxiety can be given in future newsletters. However, a large component to our sleep patterns relates to our internal body clock and the term “Circadian regulation”, which influences our wake/sleep cycle. Are you a morning Lark or a night Owl? We shall go into the importance of this a little later.

World Sleep Day (1) this year is on March 19th 2021, however we thought you might want some top hints and tips to help improve your sleep before then. Dr Michael Mosley (2) writes about the benefits of quality sleep, which can improve brain function, reduce sugar cravings and boosting your mood. On the other hand, not getting enough sleep increases your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, dementia, raised blood pressure and low mood, aswell as reducing your sex drive! (12)

Ask yourself these 3 questions

  • Do you have trouble getting up in the morning?
  • Do you have trouble focusing during the day?
  • Do you doze off during the day?

Did you answer yes to any of them? If so read on…

[Anyone having significant problems with their sleep should discuss this with their GP.]

The Sleep Charity (3) have also highlighted the problems with poor sleep.

  • 20% of Road deaths related to fatigue
  • 40% of adults and children suffer with sleep issues
  • £40.2 billion cost to UK economy caused by sleep deprivation

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Well, How much Sleep Do I really Need?

The Sleep Foundation (4) guides us as to how much sleep we should be having. Although Margaret Thatcher was famous for how little sleep she needed, this is not the norm!

Some of us may be aware of the preferred sleeping patterns of teenage children, personally I give my daughter a wide berth early morning, as she is more of a night Owl than a morning Lark. Teenagers body clocks change and do need their sleep, although will tend toward a later start in the morning. I suppose there are some advantages of home learning during the Pandemic. Also, we still need our sleep as we get older and some people say that you need less sleep in older age, but this does not fit with reality

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What happens when we sleep?

Sometimes it is worth thinking of how much sleep we get in a week rather than stressing about a night or two of poor sleep. There are three main states of sleep: light, deep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and during the night we sleep in cycles of about 90 minutes.

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Dr Mosley summarises this well with deep sleep happening in the early part of sleep. This deep sleep is really important for storing memories and the brain cleaning, a bit like when you optimise your computer and it cleans and sorts all the files out. You may have heard the phrase ‘sleep on it’.

This is very appropriate as the brain has time to sort things out. It has also been linked with better learning outcomes, if we go over something we have learnt from the day before. A process of consolidation. Most important when preparing for exams, steady revising rather than cramming at the last minute. If only I had known!

We spend about half the night in light sleep and most of our REM sleep later on. REM sleep is where we have vivid dreams, which is suggested how we process our emotions. For those of us that are tech savvy, there are plenty of smart phones and smart watches that can track our sleep patterns, but we don’t need any tech for a getting good sleep hygiene.

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The Armed Forces and Professional Athletes are aware of the vital importance of sleep on performance and recovery. The power of napping at work, for about 20 minutes, has been utilised by large corporate firms such as Google and Mercedes, as well as NASA. They have found the benefits of well rested employees linked with improved wellness, productivity and being happier (10).

Am I getting enough sleep?

The Spoon Test (5)

There are some simple tests to find out if you are getting enough sleep and Dr Michael Mosely describes a couple of these in his book ‘Fast Asleep’(2). One of them is the Sleep Onset Latency Test or Spoon Test, which is easier to remember. Basically, lying on your bed in a dark room in the middle of the afternoon, holding a spoon in your hand with your arm over the bed, with a tray on the floor underneath the spoon. First of all, check the time, close your eyes and drift off. The idea is that if you fall asleep, the spoon will fall from your fingers , hit the tray and wake you up, hopefully!

  • Falling asleep within 5 minutes of closing your eyes, means that you are severely sleep deprived.
  • Within 5-10 minutes deemed troublesome
  • Within 10-15 minutes suggests a mild problem
  • If you stay awake more than 15 minutes, you’re probably fine.

Dr Mosely also suggests another version of spoon test and go to bed in the afternoon, in a dark room, set your phone alarm for 15 minutes and see if you nod off before then.

For further information on how to improve your sleep including sleep hygiene check our next blog feature on Friday 19th of March - which is World Sleep Day.

2. Fast Asleep by Dr Michael Mosely 2020 Short Books