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The Sleep Council zzzzz Media FAQs

How important is a good night's sleep?

Sleep, regardless of age, is extremely important to a healthy lifestyle and should not be taken lightly. It is a basic and fundamental human requirement and has restorative functions. As we sleep, tissue grows and repairs itself and the immune system is strengthened. The brain also repairs itself during sleep and researchers believe sleep is critical to healthy brain function. In fact, researchers also believe the brain performs actions vital to learning and memory during sleep. Sleep also affects the levels of hormones and other important chemicals circulating in your body. Getting too little sleep disrupts all of that.

How much sleep do we need?

While there is no magic number for how much sleep we should get, there is a general consenus that around seven to eight hours is best. Experts believe that most adults require somewhere between six and nine hours in order to feel refreshed and to function well both mentally and physically.

Are we getting less sleep than we used to?

In a report The Sleep Council did in 2013 we found that a third of the population (33%) now get by on five to six hours sleep a night compared to 27% in 2010. And the majority of people (70%) sleep for seven hours or less.

What are some of the effects we could feel from sleep deprivation?

Just one bad night’s sleep affects our mood, concentration and alertness while long-term sleep deprivation has far more serious consequences: it’s been linked to a number of serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

What are the most common reasons we aren't getting enough sleep?

Stress and anxiety – whether it’s a jam packed pressurised work schedule or worrying about finances. Stress causes the heart rate to go up and in turn the mind starts to ‘race’. This causes the brain to become too alert and stimulated to sleep. Bad habits also play a huge part – from not eating well, not exercising enough, alcohol and caffeine consumption, irregular sleep schedules and over using technology in the hours before bed.

How does getting a better night's sleep impact me the next day?

A good night’s sleep makes you look better, feel better, behave better, perform better and think better! What more could you want.

What's the best temperature for your bedroom whilst you're sleeping?

Most people prefer to sleep in a slightly cool environment and a room temperature of around 16-18°C (60-65°F) is usually sufficient for getting a good night’s sleep. Lowering your core body temperature by about ½ °C will switch on your “sleep switch”. Anything over 24°C (71°F) is more likely to cause restlessness and temperatures around 12-13°C (53-55°F) are usually too cool to be able to drop off. Older people and young babies/children may need a warmer environment – there are helpful room thermometers appropriate for all ages to guide you to the best temperature.

How important is a good bed?

The foundation of a good night’s sleep is a comfortable, supportive bed. It’s difficult to get deep, restful sleep on an old, uncomfortable bed. A bed with the correct support, comfort and space will ensure you wake less, move about less, are less disturbed by your partner and are less likely to wake up feeling tired or aching. Make sure you use adequate bed clothes and pillows too. If you’re not comfortable in bed your sleep won’t be as deep.

What other factors should we consider in our bedrooms to help encourage good sleeping habits?

A restful bedroom environment should be cool, quiet and dark and free from distractions – that means removing computers, tablets, mobile phones and even TVs. Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed as the blue light that emits from these devices messes around with your body’s circadian rhythms by suppressing the sleep inducing hormone melatonin. To ensure you experience good quality sleep it’s essential to follow good lifestyle habits too such as diet, caffeine and alcohol consumption and exercise regimes. Small changes can have a huge impact on how you sleep.

Can you catch up on sleep at the weekend?

Sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t fix all the deficits caused by workweek sleep loss. A few days of lost sleep can have adverse effects including increased daytime sleepiness, worsened daytime performance, an increase in molecules that are a sign of inflammation in the body and impaired blood sugar regulation. Recovery sleep over a weekend may not reverse all the effects of lost sleep during the week and if it disrupts your normal go to bed – get up routine that could also impact on sleep quality.

Is it true that an hour before midnight is worth two after?

While this isn’t strictly true, it is based on the fact that the first third of your sleep is the most restorative. It is the deepest part of sleep where we are least likely to be disturbed and wake up. If you go to bed late then it is likely that your deep wave sleep will be cut short.

As you get older, do you need less sleep?

It is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age. It’s not about needing less sleep, but unfortunately as we get older sleep quality declines and we experience a change in sleeping patterns – whether that’s more frequent wakings in the night, loss of non-REM sleep or more daytime napping. There are all sorts of ways in which older people can help themselves to a better night’s sleep – f mostly it’s just a case of adjusting daily routines as sleeping patterns change – and trying to limit the cat naps!

For more advice, take a look at Lizzie’s story!

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