ADPR meets 21.02.2018

Ask Five: Dr Neil Stanley, leading sleep expert

At ADPR we love the restorative power of sleep, so we’ve interviewed Dr Neil Stanley, a leading  expert in sleep research and here are his thoughts on how we can all increase the quality of our zzzzzs.

There are lots of scary headlines about the sleep deficit. Tell us more.
We have many more competing priorities now than we ever used to. From the balance of work and feeling “always connected”, the power of technology that gives us the capability to communicate globally 24/7 and many more distractions from ever increasing TV channels to late night entertainment. We’ve turned sleep into something that we feel that we have to do as opposed to something that we want to do. This means that we are sleeping less than we should do and this affects how we feel and our performance. However sleep is more important than ever before.

How can we get more sleep?
It’s a combination of willpower, planning and making time in our lives to recognise the importance of sleep. Everyone is different so it’s about finding a routine that works for you and sticking to it. Key to getting a great night’s sleep is relaxing both your body and mind before you want to go to sleep and creating a dark, cool, quiet sleep sanctuary. Your bedroom should be used for sleeping in only, so make sure that you clear your sleeping space of technology and invest in the largest bed that can fit in your bedroom.

When we are travelling with work, how can we cope better with the first night effect? From the constant hum of the air conditioning and permanent light of the TV to random traffic noise and glow of street lights, our primeval instinct kicks in to protect us when we are sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings. Make the most of the facilities – eat in the restaurant, do any work in quiet spaces or lounge areas, socialise with colleagues or friends at the bar and only head to your bedroom when you are tired and ready for sleep. The ideal temperature should be around 16-18C (60-65F), so adjust the air conditioning when you check in to your room. If you can open a window that’s ideal as a recent study in the Netherlands has proven that fresh air helps you sleep better. Reducing noise can really help, although many hotel appliances can’t be unplugged so make use of the “do not disturb sign” on your door to try and encourage people walking by to be a little quieter. Light is a signal to our body that it’s time to get up so it’s important to sleep in as dark a room as possible. If that means putting the room menu card in front of the standby light on your TV to prevent it blinking at you all night, or packing an eye mask, then do it! Many hotels have blackout blinds and curtains so use them.

Why should we avoid technology before we go to sleep?
Whether it’s a mobile phone, a laptop or a TV, you should avoid exposure to ‘blue light’ about 45 minutes before you head to bed. Blue light screens suppress the production of melatonin, which is the hormone your body produces to help you get to sleep.

There’s lots of sleep tips available. Do they work? Our bodies crave routine so whereever possible try and go to bed and get up at the same time. Listen to your body and make time in your busy day to create a bedtime routine – from having a bath or listening to music, reading a book or writing down your thoughts in a diary – preparing yourself for sleep is essential. It’s all about finding out what works for you and sticking to it.