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Day two on my challenge to write five blogs in five days for Men’s Health Week and I’m tired already! Shouldn’t have watched that ‘inspirational’ David Goggins video clip last night. Nice segue to today’s topic which is sleep. Is sleep a health issue you might ask? Well no…until it becomes one. Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to our physical and mental health. By ‘good’ the experts tell us two things are required:

1) 7-8 hours;

2) good sleep hygiene (quality) during this time.

Before I go on and share some of the alarming and interesting facts of sleep I thought I’d start with mindset. Unless you have a young baby, or someone who’s keeping you up due to illness etc. the insufficiency of your hours slept is no bragging right. The fact that you only need 3-4 hours a night is indicative of nothing to be honest, unless you are someone who has a condition called short sleeper syndrome (SSS) and can function without detriment for less than six hours a night. Even then it only equips you to fill more of your day with stuff to do.

All too often there is a machismo to how well we can function on only a few hours sleep as though it’s some pointer to how hard we are. Guess what – unless you actually do have SSS deluding yourself around your sleep hours is robbing your physical and mental  health and here’s why.

1) There is a clear line between poor sleep and higher body weight. Good sleepers consume less calories;

2) Poor sleepers are at greater risk of stroke and heart disease;

3) Sleep affects glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes. You can see why I led with diabetes yesterday!

4) Poor sleep impairs your immune function. People say they caught a cold because they are run down. That’s often because they’ve had inadequate  sleep;

5) Poor sleep is also linked to depression. 90% of people with depression list poor sleep as a major complaint.

6) Our concentration and mood are impaired without sufficient sleep causing among other things issues in our home and work life;

7) Poor sleep is linked to inflammation. Inflammation is the ‘flavour of the month’ in medical research and it’s not a good thing.

Sleep volume is important but as mentioned above sleep quality or hygiene as it’s called is very important too. Did you know there are four stages of sleep and having all four is important. The diagram below shows the stages and what happens.

Stage 3 (deep sleep) is important because growth hormone is released and tissue regeneration occurs building muscle and bone and strengthening our immune system.

REM sleep is particualrly important as it allows certain things to be committed to memory and for dreams to occur. Dream are our blueprint for living and also our way of sorting some of our shit out so it’s important that we experience this stage each and every night. It’s the REM component of our sleep that gives us the get up and go for the next day. The phases cycle through during your 7-8 hours taking around 90 minutes to 120 minutes each time.

So if you need more, better quality or both here’s what the experts say we should try:

Oh no not these again;

1) Get regular exercise;

2) Reduce blue light exposure at night and f you can get greater bright light exposure during the day do so (but be sun safe!);

3) Consider your diet particularly heavy food intake and alcohol and other drugs that may act as a stimulant. Coffee and nicotine also to be avoided. They tell me kiwifruit is good which might explain the All Blacks?

4) Make the bedroom a haven for sleep including getting the ambient temperature right (20 Celcius). Stimulation by smashing-out some Netflix is not recommended.

5) If you can’t get to sleep or back to sleep don’t lie and count sheep. Get up and do something;

6) They say avoid naps but maybe you napped because you couldn’t sleep the night before in which case a micro-nap is good but no longer than 20 minutes;

7) Create a pattern of going to bed and getting up at the same time;

8) If you wake during the night try flipping your pillow so that you lay your head on the cold side to get back to sleep;

9) If you’re older and needing to pee during the night make sure the path to the loo is clutter/trip/slip free so that you can navigate there and back without needing to get fully awake;

10) Consider melatonin but speak to your GP first as the jury is still out on its side effects long-term.

OK I’m heading home now. Didn’t sleep well last night and don’t want to doze off behind the wheel…which is a compelling reason to get more and better sleep…to avoid accidents. It’s believed that 20-30% of all accidents are as a result of sleepiness. If you haven’t slept for 17 hours straight it’s the equivalent of being over the blood alcohol limit.

After scouring the internet the only cure I’ve found for sleepiness is sleep.

Night night all!