Sleepio shares the secrets of good sleep at Google

10th October 2014 by Dr. Sophie Bostock

How to sleep better Sleep science Sleep technology Sleepio at Work Sleepio news

Sleepio-Google

The Sleepio team took part in an event at Google’s London offices this week to raise awareness of the importance of good sleep for a happy and productive workforce. Sleepio’s sleep experts donned their very best pyjamas to take to the stage!

Sleep researcher, Dr Sophie Bostock, explained that poor sleep can interfere with a wide range of desirable work behaviours, from empathising to ethical decision-making. Poor sleep interferes with concentration and accuracy, which can have serious consequences for safety and productivity.

Prof Colin Espie explained why a racing mind can keep insomnia sufferers awake at night. With the help of some audience participation – which included throwing money into the audience – he illustrated some of the core principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for insomnia. These included learning to value relaxation time, trusting that sleep will come, and putting the day to rest before settling down to sleep.

Co-founder, Peter Hames, described his own experience of insomnia and how successful treatment with CBT inspired him to create Sleepio. His perspective is that technology offers a, scalable, standardised, affordable and evidence-based way to deliver treatment to those who need it.

In the US, the annual cost of insomnia to employers due to lost productivity alone has been estimated at over $60 billion per year – equivalent to 7.8 lost working days per poor sleeper, per year. Given that 1 in 4 employees report poor sleep, it’s an issue that we expect will increasingly feature on the corporate wellness agenda.

Sleepio app launches for iPhone

18th September 2014 by Peter Hames

Sleep technology Sleepio app Sleepio news

Sleepio app iOS8

The future is an exciting place. Of course we’ll all have hoverboards and X-Ray specs, but more importantly our phones will become powerful tools to keep us healthy and happy.

Today marks a small step in that direction: the new Sleepio iPhone app is now available to download from the App Store!

Our new iPhone app allows you to complete the full Sleepio CBT sleep improvement program, presented by your virtual sleep expert The Prof and proven to help you make the changes necessary to overcome even long term poor sleep.

By connecting your Jawbone UP account to Sleepio you can pull in your sleep data from your UP tracker or Android Wear devices to automatically personalize your sleep improvement program to your problems and progress.

On top of this, you can now get instant, bitesized help from The Prof whenever you need it, with our new ‘Help Me Now’ feature. Whether you’re having a tough morning or you’re struggling to get to sleep at night, The Prof will be there to help you get back on track.

The Sleepio app is available from the Apple App Store from today – download it and let us know what you think!

Download the Sleepio app

Big Health at TechCrunch Disrupt SF

8th September 2014 by Matt O'Brien

Sleepio news Sleepio press

TechCrunchSF1

TechCrunch Disrupt is one of the most anticipated technology conferences of the year. Launching in San Francisco today TechCrunch will be bringing Disrupt back to San Francisco to reveal an all new slate of outstanding startups, influential speakers, guests and more to the stage. Attendees will debate the newest trends in technology, what’s causing them and how to thrive in 2015 and beyond.

On Wednesday our founder Peter will be discussing the topic ‘Digital Medicine is the New Rx’. Joining Peter on the panel will be Matthew Cooper of Carmenta Bioscience and Glen Tullman of 7wire Ventures – great company indeed!

We are big believers in the potential of digital medicine to transform healthcare, and this promises to be an exciting discussion. If you can’t be there and want to catch the talk you can view the livestream on Wednesday, September 10 at 11:45am PST, 7:45pm BST: techcrunch.com/events/disrupt-sf-2014/live-video/.

It’s not just the view you’re missing out on: workers in windowless offices lose sleep too

12th August 2014 by Rosie Gollancz

Sleep news Sleep science

Photo credit: Banalities via flickr

Photo credit: Banalities via flickr

Sorry, not great news if you work in an office without windows… A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, investigated daytime light exposure, sleep quality and health-related quality of life in employees who worked in windowless offices compared with those who worked in offices with natural daylight.

Those workers in windowless offices reported poorer sleep quality, greater day-to-day limitations due to physical problems and reduced vitality. The windowless workers not only had reduced light exposure during the day but also less total time asleep at night – approximately 45 minutes less.

Light has a powerful influence on the regulation of circadian rhythms in our body, and in particular the sleep-wake cycle. The light levels we’re exposed to during the day are linked to mood, productivity, and performance. This study shows how our working environment can affect us not just while we’re at work but even when we’re sleeping. Hopefully, employers will start looking at the design of workplaces to help their employees’ physical and mental well-being.

Sleep fact or fiction? Does counting sheep help you sleep?

4th August 2014 by Rosie Gollancz

Ask the Sleepio Expert How to sleep better

Sleep fact or fiction? Does counting sheep help you sleep?

Photo credit: Peter More

It’s time to put another one of our favourite myths about sleep to our Sleepio experts to find out what’s sleep fact or sleep fiction. This time it’s the old classic – counting sheep. Some people count stars, Bing Crosby preferred to count his blessings. But back to sheep… so, does counting sheep help you sleep? Over to Dr Simon Kyle to find out more:

Well, there is something in this… but it’s not got anything to do with sheep! The idea behind counting sheep is that it gives our brain something else to focus on rather than on the fact we’re not sleeping. Absorption in a task is an aspect of mindfulness and can help relax you. It’s also repetitive – one sheep, two sheep, three … You get the idea! And repetitive activities can help calm the mind allowing us to drop off.

But a word of warning on the sheep… for some of us, this is just too boring so it may be that your thoughts intrude and before you know it, you’re back recycling the day’s events or running through what’s going to happen tomorrow.

There’s no clinical evidence about counting sheep but there is research exploring different techniques on how to distract our minds from the thoughts that get in the way of falling asleep. One technique that’s proven to work is using imagery – imagine a scene that is calming and relaxing like walking through a favourite park or sailing in a gentle breeze… something that is engaging rather than exciting to the brain. It’s useful to prepare it in advance so that when we go to sleep, it is just like ‘rolling the tape’. Try to use all your senses, not just your mind’s eye and relax into the scene as if you were really there. It’s up to you whether there are sheep involved …

So sleep fact or sleep fiction?

Fiction – but there’s a grain of useful advice in there!

 

Thank you, Dr Simon!

Tell us about your sleep myth and we’ll tell you whether it’s sleep fact or sleep fiction!

Sleep deprivation lowers our stress threshold

23rd July 2014 by Rosie Gollancz

Sleep news Sleep science

Photo credit: bottled_void via flickr

Photo credit: bottled_void via flickr

Speaking in public can be pretty stressful… but imagine you’re told without warning that you have to give a presentation in the next few minutes, then halfway through your prep time, your pen and paper are taken away; then you have to present for a full five minutes you in front of a panel that give you no feedback or encouragement. As if that wasn’t bad enough, next is a mental arithmetic test. Just reading about it makes us feel a little panicky …

Anyway, this is something called the Trier Social Stress Test, a genuine lab test to induce stress. In a recent study, this test was used to investigate how being sleep deprived affects our stress reactivity. Out of 26 participants, 12 were given one night of sleep deprivation while the other 14 slept according to a 9-hour sleep opportunity. The next day, between 5 and 5.30pm, all participants took part in the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST).

One of the elements measured by the TSST is our stress hormones, including cortisol, before and after the test. Both groups showed an increase in stress hormones. Furthermore, the sleep-deprived group showed greater cortisol levels prior to the test and in response to the stress test, compared with the well-rested control group.

So, when we’re sleep-deprived we’re more likely to get more stressed than our rested peers. Being in this ‘stress response’ can impact our judgement, the decisions we make and how we interact with others.

Increasing our time asleep potentially reduces food cravings

16th July 2014 by Rosie Gollancz

Sleep news Sleep science

Photo credit: TownePost Network via flickr

Photo credit: TownePost Network via flickr

Studies have shown a link between reduced sleep and weight gain. Most of us will recognise that ‘need’ for carbs and sugar to get us though the day after a poor night’s sleep. There’s on-going research to find out which mechanisms in the brain might be responsible for that but a recent study has tried to address the question from the opposite perspective: does increasing our time asleep reduce our desire for certain foods?

The small pilot study, published in the journal Appetite, recruited ten overweight males (who habitually slept less than 6.5 hours per night) and asked them to extend their time asleep to 8.5 hours per night over a two-week period. Data on morning appetite, sleepiness, sleep quality and timing, was collected before and during these two weeks.

The participants increased their total time asleep by approximately 1.5 hours. Maybe unsurprisingly, they reported feeling less sleepy and having more energy but, interestingly, they experienced less desire for sweet and salty foods and they tended to be more active during the daytime. There were no effects for other food types e.g. starchy foods or fruit and veg.

Now, this pilot study is very small and was conducted without a control on subjects who voluntarily changed their sleep pattern. However, we think it’s just the start of research into this area and something that could be of huge significance in helping us manage our health and wellbeing in the future.

Sleep fact or fiction? Does a Full Moon affect how we sleep?

9th July 2014 by Rosie Gollancz

Sleep news Sleep science

Photo credit: DVIDSHUB

Photo credit: DVIDSHUB

There are legends in every part of the world about the power of a Full Moon and what it can do – everything from increasing fertility to causing insanity. But what about the effect it has on our sleep? Lots of people say that they experience problems sleeping at the time of a Full Moon so, as there’s one this weekend in the UK, we’ve put it to our sleep experts: does a Full Moon affect how we sleep?

Over to Dr Simon Kyle for the answer …

There might very well be something called ‘lunar insomnia’. Past research has suggested that the full moon could disrupt the sleep-wake cycle and cause insomnia but well-controlled studies are sparse. One interesting – though speculative – possibility is that we possess an internal circa-lunar clock, which helps our physiology track the phases of the moon.

Three studies (here are the links to 1,2 and 3) in the past year have investigated the link between sleep and the lunar phase. Two studies analysed the sleep of participants who slept at different phases of the moon in the sleep laboratory, controlling light levels. Both found evidence for disrupted sleep continuity and/or architecture when the moon was at its fullest. However, a further study, assessing the largest number of laboratory sleep records to date, across the different lunar phases, found no evidence of altered sleep.

So sleep fact or sleep fiction?

The jury is out! Further prospectively designed studies, where participants are repeatedly assessed at different moon phases is required to definitely test this hypothesis!

 

Thank you, Dr Simon!

Tell us about your sleep myth and we’ll tell you whether it’s sleep fact or sleep fiction!

How can I stop waking up in the middle of the night

2nd July 2014 by Rosie Gollancz

How to sleep better

Photo credit: Courtney via flickr

Photo credit: Courtney via flickr

George Clooney (allegedly) has trouble sleeping – he struggles to fall asleep and then wakes up repeatedly in the night. Unfortunately we only know this because it’s on the internet rather than actually talking to the man himself. Still, we know that George is not the only one. The night can seem a very long and lonely time when we’re struggling to stay asleep. So what can we do to stop waking up in the middle of the night?

George has trouble falling asleep; once his head hits the pillow, with no distractions, the thoughts take over. More on the thoughts and the racing mind another time… But what does George do to combat this? He turns the TV on. Ah. It’s best to keep the TV turned off. Yes, it can help distract us but it can also stir the mind up. Also, we may doze off but then light and noise from the TV that’s still on can interfere with our sleep and wake us up during the night.

There are a few other lifestyle factors that may wake us up in the middle of the night. It’s good to cut down on alcohol. Although having a nightcap can help us fall asleep, it can disrupt our sleep later in the night and leave us feeling unrefreshed in the morning. Too much can definitely lead to a poor night’s sleep! And of course, it’s best to avoid caffeine in the afternoon.

If we’ve ruled out potential environmental and lifestyle factors that may be disrupting our sleep and we’re still not making it through the night, using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques can help. There has been lots of research done that shows that CBT can cut both the number of times we wake up – and how long we stay awake for in these periods. So there’s still hope for George and the rest of us!

A note of caution – repeated awakenings during the night may be associated with the sleep disorder sleep apnoea and problems waking up early and not being able to get back to sleep can be associated with stress and depression so please do check with your doctor.

How to love sleep: three habits of a good sleeper

26th June 2014 by Jo White

How to sleep better

Photo credit: owlpacino via flickr

Photo credit: owlpacino via flickr

There’s still so much we have to learn about sleep, but we already know it’s vital to our well-being and does amazing things like reset our brain and protect us from physical and mental health issues.

If you think about it, the signs are all there:

  • we spend about a third of our lives doing it
  • it is universal across all species, tightly regulated internally, and cannot be lost without serious harm, and
  • it’s up there with oxygen in terms of the fundamentals we need to live (yep, it’s more important than food)

Any one of those would be convincing on its own, but put them all together and it’s pretty clear that sleep is where it’s at.

And yet sleep seems to be something we fit in around everything else in our lives. How can we change that? Here are three habits of a good sleeper to help us love sleep:

Give sleep the love and attention it deserves

This is like the difference between popping the kettle on for instant noodles and taking a little bit of time to savour something delicious. You turn the laptop off, turn the light out and flop your head down on the pillow. That’s the sleep equivalent of instant noodles.

Build in some wind-down time before you go to bed. Do something relaxing that gradually gets you into the right frame of mind so that by the time your head comes to rest on the pillow, you’re ready to drift off.

And try the same thing  - but in reverse – in the morning. This isn’t about hitting the snooze button - that can just leave us feeling groggy. If you need an alarm, try one that wakes you up nice and slowly.

Make sleep something to be enjoyed and savoured.

Sleep-Me Time

Given what happens while we’re asleep, it’s easily the most important time of the day. But we see it more as an afterthought to the main event. At the risk of sounding cheesy, sleep is the best me-time we could give ourselves. Make your bedroom a place that you actually look forward to going. Sometimes, we delay going to sleep because it’s the time of the day we have for ourselves – work is done, the kids are in bed… Yes, you could slump in front of the TV or surf the net, but what’s that actually doing for you? If you’re tired, then maybe it’s time to go to bed. Some quality sleep will leave you feeling rested, refreshed and raring to go the next day!

Give sleep – and yourself –  a break

Everyone can have a poor night’s sleep once in a while.  Whether it’s down to a something specific or for no obvious reason. It’s just one night though. Sometimes that one night is all that’s needed to trigger sleep problems because it sets off a vicious cycle where the worry about not sleeping stops you from sleeping! So try and accept it and let that one night go. Don’t forget to make your bedroom sleep-friendly and a place that you actually want to be.And give the next night all the love it needs!

If you’re reading this thinking “I *do* love sleep… but it just doesn’t love me”, then have a look at some of our tips to help you sleep here