A lecture by Professor Richard Wiseman
Does this sound daft to you too? We really need to learn how to sleep.
We really do, because sleep deprivation is increasing your likelihood of obesity by 15%, heart disease by 45% and the big ‘C’ by 60%. These outcomes are extreme but they are a short stop from the tired eyes, poor attention span and reduced reaction time that you are familiar with when you don’t get enough shut-eye.
In 2013 as many as 39% of us were sleep deprived. By 2014 this had leapt to 66%. Can you guess why? Google it on the device you are probably holding right now. Yes, Steve Jobs is implicated in this phenomenon that is destroying us.
So Richard Wiseman has taken up the mantle from past heroes of sleep, Hans Berger and Eugene Aserinsky, to really understand sleep. I hope he fares better than Aserinsky, a sleep specialist who died after he fell asleep at the wheel.
To keep us awake and paying attention Professor Wiseman taught us about sleep patterns, insomnia and our dreams, before laying out his plan for better sleep. It turns out that, aside from avoiding the scary monsters listed above, there are other benefits:
- During sleep the brain cements the learning from the day.
- If you sleep on it, information retention increases by 30%.
- During sleep the body sets about repairing soft tissue including the brain itself.
- During sleep your brain rehearses actions learned in the recent past.
- Basketball players who get good sleep improve their subsequent performance by 10%.
So are you sold on the idea of getting better sleep? Here’s how:
Ten Tips for Better Sleep
All Professor Wiseman’s research boils down to Ten Tips for Better Sleep. Start with five and I’ll share more once we’ve mastered these. No.10 is my new favourite.
- Know your type. If you are a Lark you will want to rise early. If you are an Owl you will not be ready for bed until late. Don’t rub against your natural preference or it will end in avian tears.
- Work with your body’s natural rhythms. Sleep cycles are 1 hour 30 minutes in length. If you can avoid waking up mid cycle you will feel a whole lot better. If you can avoid using an alarm clock, do. But if you really have to set your alarm, work out how many complete cycles you can have.
- Change the low energy light bulbs in your bedroom and bathroom. These are the last places you spend time before switching off the lights and going to sleep. The light they produce is far too stimulating to allow your brain to switch off.
- Do not use your devices immediately before bedtime. The blue light these devices produce is far too stimulating to allow your brain to switch off. Just 10 minutes staring at a screen equates to 2 hours walking outdoors in bright sunlight. Thanks for that Steve.
- Don’t drink alcohol within two hours of shut-eye. It’s a stimulant, like caffeine so cut it out.
If you want to go deeper get the book.