You get better sleep before midnight… Sleep fact or sleep fiction?

22nd April 2014 by Jo White

Ask the Sleepio Expert How to sleep better Sleep science Sleepio experts

Sleep fact or sleep fiction

Photo credit: Adam Levine via Flickr

There are lots of myths about sleep out there from the powers of warm milk to how the nightmare-inducing properties of cheese. So we’re putting our favourites to our Sleepio experts to find out what’s sleep fact or sleep fiction. (I know… I feel we need a jingle too.)

First off, my mum used to say that every hour spent asleep before midnight was worth two hours spent asleep after midnight. This sounded like a ploy to get me to go to bed earlier but over to Dr Simon Kyle to find out more:

Well, there’s something in this … but it’s not actually about going to bed before midnight, but how our sleep changes throughout the night!

It’s actually during the first third of the night that we experience the deepest part of our sleep. We move into deep sleep more rapidly and it’s the phase of sleep during which we’re least likely to be disturbed and wake up.

This deep or slow-wave sleep (SWS) is the most restorative part of our sleep. We experience low levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as reductions in sympathetic nervous system activity – this is the stimulating activity associated with our ‘fight-or-flight’ responses. We also experience increased parasympathetic nervous system activity, which is associated with ‘rest and digest’ activity. So, you can see why it does us so much good!

SWS is also associated with memory consolidation, our learning ability and our overall alertness the next day. The emerging picture from experimental research is that SWS is involved in critical aspects of cognition and daytime functioning, and that it assists in keeping our brain and body in optimal health.

If you wake feeling unrefreshed, it’s likely that your deep or slow wave sleep is suffering in some way. Avoid taking naps because deep sleep is related to the amount of time spent awake. For example, if you take a long nap in the late afternoon, the time spent in SWS that night is reduced. Take steps to reduce your pre-sleep stress too as that can also reduce your SWS once you’re asleep.

So sleep fact or sleep fiction?

Fiction – but it’s based on fact because it’s the first third of your sleep that is the most restorative.

Thank you, Dr Simon!

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

Sleep monitoring at Manchester United

14th April 2014 by Jo White

Sleep news

Sleep Tracking at the Theatre of Dreams

Photo credit: tutu

Sports news …  it’s been reported that Manchester United’s players are now having their sleep monitored as part of their training programme.

Quite rightly, the coaching team has identified sleep as an important factor in the players’ performance. Each player is required to give marks out of seven on how they slept, how their muscles feel and their state of mind. United’s Head of Fitness, Tony Strudwick, is quoted as saying that their monitoring and recording process is “probably the best coaching tool we have. And all we’re doing is asking them how they feel. We monitor everything the players do in training and matches, as well as their recovery and wellness.”

How we sleep at night shapes everything about the next day – from how we interact with people and how much energy we have to our levels of concentration and our ability to make decisions. So, you can see how that’s going to affect your ability to play Premier League football – or in fact, do anything!

You don’t have to be an elite sportsman to benefit from sleep monitoring. Keeping a sleep diary helps you understand your sleep pattern and identify things that may need changing. It’s the first step to helping yourself sleep better. We’re not saying that a good night’s sleep is going to turn you into a world-class footballer, but it’s definitely going to make you feel better!

Our response to the Heartbleed Bug

14th April 2014 by Brandon Paluzzi

Sleepio news Sleepio Tech Update

The Heartbleed Bug

Last week, a serious security vulnerability was discovered that affected the large majority of sites on the internet. Nicknamed “Heartbleed”, it affects the OpenSSL library and makes it possible for private data to be obtained by other users. You can read more about it on the BBC News website here.

We have taken all necessary steps to eliminate any possibility of the Heartbleed bug affecting our site, including updating all of our servers and systems as well as re-issuing and replacing all of our SSL certificates.

It does not appear that there were any unauthorised attempts at obtaining data stored on the Sleepio servers, although due to the nature of the Heartbleed Bug, it is impossible to say for sure. For this reason, we’d recommend that all Sleepio members reset their passwords for our system.

Thanks for your attention, and please get in touch with us at hello@sleepio.com if you have any questions.

How to … Wake Up

9th April 2014 by Jo White

How to sleep better

How to wake up

Photo credit: François Rey

Whether we’ve slept well or not, it can take most of us a little while to get from our sleepy state to wide-awake in the morning. So, how can we wake up ‘better’?

  • Avoid hitting the snooze button. It’s so tempting but it tends to leave us feeling worse once we’re up and out of bed. Our body begins preparing to wake some time before the alarm goes off, releasing hormones that promote alertness and getting us ready to face the day. By hitting the snooze button, we confuse ourselves as sleep-promoting hormones are then released into our bloodstream, making it even more difficult to wake up.
  • Put the kettle on. Often we can be a bit dehydrated after a night’s sleep so taking in some fluid helps. So that first cup of tea of the day really counts! And if you need your caffeine fix, this is the best time of day to get it to reduce its impact on your sleep.
  • Get out into the sunlight. When it’s light outside, get outside as soon as you can because natural light helps kickstart our waking process. There is evidence that a ‘dawn alarm’ – a light box that simulates natural daylight in addition to a standard alarm – can help the waking process as the light stimulates those hormones that make you more alert.

 

Five ways to make your bedroom sleep-friendly

2nd April 2014 by Jo White

Great British Sleep Survey How to sleep better

Sleep-friendly bed

Photo credit: Dimbledar

Here at Sleepio we think that the bedroom is the most important room in the house! Our sleeping environment plays a huge part in how we sleep so here are our top tips for making your bedroom sleep-friendly:

It’s oh so quiet
Ideally your bedroom should be fairly quiet, but it doesn’t have to be completely silent! Research has found that most of those living near busy roads for example quickly get used to traffic noise. Ear-plugs can be handy too. But noises inside the bedroom can be a different matter – I’ve actually dismantled a clock in the wee small hours because the ticking seemed to be the loudest thing ever. And that’s the thing - it’s often the case that sleep disturbance associated with noise is more to do with the person focusing attention on the noise than the actual level of the noise itself. Once we associate the noise with an inability to sleep, it becomes a source of irritation and frustration. So, it’s about changing how we think about the noise.

Hot, hot, hot
According to the Great British Sleep Survey, the most significant bedroom factor affecting poor sleepers is room temperature with 45% saying it negatively affects their sleep. Now, the ideal temperature for your bedroom is around 18°C.  And it’s important to get the balance right – if you get too hot, you may get restless…. too cold and you may struggle to drop off or even have bad dreams. Dreaming is a light form of sleep. When we’re not at the right temperature we have lighter sleep of both the dreaming and non-dreaming varieties. So make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature.

See the light
… or actually, don’t. As it gets dark, our brains begin preparing us for sleep by producing a hormone called ‘melatonin’. Light at night may inhibit the production of melatonin. Why’s this important?  Well, melatonin is ‘the sleep hormone’: it’s released during the ‘dark phase’ of night and morning-light helps to shut down production. So, if we’re not producing melatonin, it’s more difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep. So,  once the light’s off, your bedroom should be very dark. Blackout curtains or blinds work a treat – and so does an eye mask.

The thin blue light
Not the police but that blue light that comes from phones, laptops… pretty much every electronic device. Back to melatonin – research shows the blue light emitted from computer screens back-lit with LEDs may inhibit the production of melatonin which can leave us feeling more alert. It’s best to avoid any stimulating activity anyway at least an hour before we go to bed to give ourselves time to wind down – and that includes using your phone or laptop. But what about if you just leave your mobile on your bedside table while you sleep? Well, it’s not necessarily the mobile itself that’s affecting our sleep: it’s the way we react to it… so if we feel the need to check emails while we’re in bed. CBT techniques can actually help us develop a healthier relationship with our gadgets so we don’t feel the compulsion to always check our inbox or the latest status update.

When it comes to your bed, make like Goldilocks
We’re not suggesting you try everyone’s porridge but when it comes to finding your bed, make sure it’s just right. One in five poor sleepers put their poor sleep down to an uncomfortable bed. There’s no single formula to get it right: it’s down to the individual! So test out different mattresses, different pillow fillings and different bedding until you find what’s right for you! On average, we spend a third of our day in bed so we may as well be comfortable!

Three ways to cope with the clock change

24th March 2014 by Jo White

Great British Sleep Survey How to sleep better Insomnia Sleep news

 

Spring clock change 2014

Photo credit: Guillaume Cattiaux

Next weekend sees the clocks change in the UK. Turning the clocks forward by an hour may herald the longer, lighter days of Summer but it also leaves us with a temporary ‘Spring–lag’ as it disrupts our body clock, leaving us feeling like we have jet-lag.

On average, the quality of our sleep will take a dip of 10% immediately after the clock change – and this could last for up to three weeks as our bodies adjust. The change in our sleep pattern has a significant impact across our daily lives with 9% more people reporting a negative impact on their relationships, an extra 10% people reporting lower energy and 11% reporting lower productivity as a consequence of poor sleep. (Stats from the Great British Sleep Survey.)

The good news is that you can take some simple steps to help re-set your body clock gradually so you feel less of an impact come Sunday morning.

Re-set your own body clock It can help to gradually change your sleep pattern in the week before the clocks change so you’re not doing it all in one go. Over the week, shift the times you go to bed and wake up by just a few minutes earlier. So by the time Sunday hits, you’re already there!

Respect the clock on Sunday Avoid the temptation to lie in on Sunday morning. It’ll make the rest of your week easier if you wake up at your normal time according to the clock… even though you’ll feel like it’s an hour too early!

Make the most of the extra hour! Natural light helps kickstart your waking process. So, once you’re awake on Sunday, get out and enjoy as much of the day as you can! This will help you sleep better on Sunday night and hopefully help avoid that jet-lag feeling on Monday morning.

World Sleep Day 2014

14th March 2014 by Rosie Gollancz

Sleep news

World at night sleeping

Photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Today is World Sleep Day! Organised by the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM), this year’s theme is “restful sleep, easy breathing and healthy body”, highlighting the risk factors for the sleep disorder Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

But even if you don’t suffer from sleep apnoea, there are plenty of reasons to put sleep at the top of your list of priorities. If you frequently find yourself yawning your way through afternoon meetings or you never seem to catch the end of movies, it might be time to ask yourself if you’re getting the sleep you need.

Many years of research have shown that good, restful sleep brings with it a huge range of positive effects on our general health and wellbeing. It increases energy and concentration, improves our mood and can even boost productivity – what better reason do you need to give your sleep the attention it deserves?

Does keeping your phone on at night affect your sleep?

11th March 2014 by Jo White

Sleep news

Does keeping your phone on affect your sleep?

Photo credit: Yutaka Tsutano

Eight out of ten of us keep our phones switched on all of the time even when we’re in bed. So, how’s that affecting our sleep?

Well, it’s best to avoid any stimulating activity at least an hour before we go to bed to give ourselves time to wind down – and that includes using your phone or laptop, whether you’re checking emails or watching a thriller. The light in some devices has the potential to influence our sleep. For example, studies have shown that the blue light emitted from computer screens and hand-held devices may inhibit the production of melatonin (a hormone involved in the timing and regulation of sleep) which can leave us feeling more alert.

But what about if you just leave your mobile on your bedside table while you sleep? Well, it’s not necessarily the mobile itself that’s affecting our sleep. Out of those 80% of us that keep our mobiles switched on, half  then use the phone if it wakes us up. That’s something that’s completely in our own control – it’s our decision to respond. It’s not the technology that’s to blame but how we relate to it that makes the difference: what we think about it, how we use it etc. CBT techniques can actually help us develop a healthier relationship with our gadgets so we don’t feel the compulsion to always check our inbox or the latest status update.

So, it’s ok to have your mobile on your bedside table… just try not to use it!

How will Daylight Saving Time affect your sleep?

7th March 2014 by Rosie Gollancz

Sleep news

Daylight Savings Time and sleep

Photo credit: Guillaume Cattiaux

This Sunday marks the start Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the United States. Although this brings the benefit of longer and (hopefully) brighter days, turning the clocks forward also means getting an hour less of sleep!

The twice-yearly process of changing the clocks can be pretty disruptive to our bodies. In fact, it’s common to spend the days following the change feeling a little jet-lagged, with your sleep pattern taking anything up to a few weeks to settle into the time shift.

How will this affect you? World sleep expert, Prof. Espie, explains:

Changing the clocks forces our own internal body clock to re-synchronise. That can take a few days and it leaves us feeling more tired throughout the day as our bodies catch up. Once we’ve acclimatised to the new sleep schedule, sleep quality should settle at normal levels once again.

So, although the clocks will indeed be “springing” forward, our bodies may take some time to catch up. Here are three ways you can make the clock change easier on yourself:

Re-set your own body clock

It can help to gradually change your sleep pattern in the week before the clocks change so you’re not doing it all in one go. Over the week, shift the times you go to bed and wake up by just 15 minutes – that’s 15 minutes earlier by the way! So by the time Sunday hits, you’re already there!

Respect the clock on Sunday

Avoid the temptation to lie in on Sunday morning! It’ll make the rest of your week easier if you wake up at your normal time according to the clock… even though you’ll feel like it’s an hour too early!

Make the most of daylight

Natural light helps kickstart your waking process. So once you’re awake on Sunday, get out and enjoy as much of the day as you can! This will help you sleep better on Sunday night and hopefully help avoid that jet-lag feeling on Monday morning.

So, even if next week feels like a real struggle, try to remember that nicer weather is on its way to thaw us out of this winter gloom!

Asleep at the wheel

26th February 2014 by Jo White

How to sleep better Sleep news

Asleep at the wheel

Photo credit: Britt-knee

There’s a new report out today highlighting the potential dangerous impact of sleep apnoea on drivers but it’s not just those with sleep apnoea who are at risk. Sleepiness has been implicated in as many as 20% of all road traffic accidents. Most of us have felt sleepy when driving late at night but if we’re feeling tired and sleepy during the day, our driving can suffer too. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 2pm or 2am. Sleepiness reduces reaction time,  vigilance, and alertness as well as our levels of concentration and our ability to make decisions.

Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re having problems sleeping but we do notice the impact that lack of sleep has on our daily lives – such as low energy levels, feeling a bit irritable or just feeling tired. These are our wake-up calls (sorry, unintended pun): if we experience any of these symptoms,  it’s worth taking some time to improve our chances of getting a better night’s sleep.