With the clocks set to go back an hour this weekend, The Sleep Council asked leading experts exactly what an extra hour in bed can do for us, in terms of mental and physical benefits.
And while most but not all of our panel agreed another hour of sleep would be a good thing, they were unanimous in believing an extra hour of rest, snuggled up in a warm and comfortable bed, is extremely beneficial for mind and body.
Here’s what they told us:
Professor Kevin Morgan of Loughborough Sleep Research Centre: Being in bed for longer isn’t just about a quantum of sleep. Beds are places where far more than just sleep happens and the overall experience of staying in bed longer contributes to our health and wellbeing. It serves as a restorative function both physiologically and mentally. Everyone lies in at the weekend – it’s the conventional way of compensating for lost sleep during the working week. If it’s part of your sleep lifestyle, a disciplined sleep extension at the weekend is a positive thing.
Professor Chris Idzikowski, sleep expert: A lie-in balances out sleep debt accumulated during the working week and helps with brain recovery and memory processing. In that extra hour, the implication is that one’s mental apparatus (the brain) continues to work at repairing itself. Workaholics may be interested to know that, when sleeping, problem solving goes on – so let the brain work the problem out while you are asleep! Physiologically, muscles are given an added boost – but actually sleeping for an extra hour is the real benefit. Whether for sleep, relaxation or meditation, people should make time for a lie-in in their schedule.
Dr Neil Stanley, independent sleep expert: Our body is a rhythmic entity and craves the routine of going to bed at the same time and waking at the same time. It prepares to wake up, one to one-and-a-half hours before we actually do so. So sleeping in could make you feel worse as it upsets our routine a little which can explain the slightly ‘out of sorts’ Monday morning feeling that some people experience after staying in bed longer at the weekend. If you want to stay in bed, it’s better to be awake – snuggly, warm and comfy in bed – than to be asleep.
Kathleen McGrath, nurse and sleep advisor: There’s no harm in the occasional lie-in. A little bit of quiet time in order to relax is very important. Whether you’re sleeping or resting, the extra hour gives us the added the benefit of relaxing and winding down after a busy week – and resting well helps our mental state. A good, comfortable bed will help even more.
Neil Shah – chief de-stressing officer, The Stress Management Society: When it comes to sleep, it’s all about quality rather than quantity. Due to fast paced lifestyles and busy schedules, most people suffer from sleep deficit during the week, so an extra hour in bed at weekend can help them to catch up. Sleep plays a big role in the recovery of brain functions such as memory, the immune system and other vital functions. People should aim to achieve quality sleep every night, however, not just at weekends. And even for those who have a good sleep pattern, the extra hour simply relaxing in bed can be a way to unwind and relax the mind and body.
Dr Glen Kemp, Newcastle Science City: Many people suffer from low-level, chronic sleep deprivation without realising it and research has shown that some changes in hormonal and neurotransmitter levels due to sleep loss can be rebalanced by ‘recovery sleep’. Although oversleeping has been shown to have a negative effect too, there is a psychologically beneficial effect in enjoying a guilt free period of deep relaxation without necessarily being fully asleep.
So, permission granted to enjoy a guilt-free lie-in this Sunday! To help anyone planning to grab an extra hour of sleep, here are The Sleep Council’s six strategies for a successful sleep-in:
- Remember to switch the alarm off before you go to sleep at night.
- Unplug any phones in the room and ensure that any radios or televisions are not set to come on at any time in the morning.
- Make sure you close the curtains – preferably good heavy ones that will block out the daylight that can disturb your mid-morning slumber.
- Make sure you are sleeping on a good bed. An old one with creaky springs and a chronic roll-together mattress is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, let alone a lie-in.
- Remember, the bigger your bed, the less the chance your sleep will be disturbed by your partner.
- If you have young children, make sure you and your partner take a lie-in in turns with the ‘on duty’ partner responsible for keeping noise levels down.