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SLEEP - YOU DO IT EVERY NIGHT BUT DO YOU DO IT RIGHT?

Robert McKinlay, Senior Project Manager

SLEEP - ARE YOU DOING IT RIGHT?

As a 30 something year old with no children, no pets, not so much as a house plant to be responsible for, I have the luxury of being able to drift off and wake up pretty much as I please. Work in the morning and the odd game of football on a summer weekend are the only cast iron commitments I have to rising before the postman arriving. But while I am sure that I have amassed a significant fortune in excess sleep hours throughout my teenage years, I feel in my mind (and my bones) that that scale is just about ready for tipping.

Suffice it to say though that old habits die hard and much to the annoyance of anyone expecting a text back from me there is at least one night every month where I get home from work, crawl into my nest and sleep right through until it’s time to get up the next morning. Pair that with a comfy bed, a firm pillow on the bottom and a fluffy one on top and it is a wonder how I ever manage to pull myself out from under the covers at all.

Jealous?

Sounds all right, right?

I’m not so sure anymore.

On average (according to FitBit) I get around six hours sleep a night during the week and around ten hours kip of a Saturday and Sunday morning/early afternoon. My status quo is usually cream-crackered (sleepy) during the week and giving it laldy (not so sleepy) at the weekend, nothing unusual there I don't think. I imagine that that is a pretty familiar feeling to most but I am starting to think that while clearly manageable and relatively comfortable, this might not exactly be the healthiest lifestyle choice...

Sleep is an activity which for years I have treated as a credit and debit system. Six hours tonight, ten tomorrow, that’s the same as eight each night, right?

Course it is, n’night, Zzzz.

My approach to sleep has been like my approach to other aspects of my wellbeing. Sedentary and sluggish for a few days and then it is all systems go. A long lunchtime walk to get my steps up, 5-a-side after work to get my heart going, squeeze in a weights session in the evening for the disco muscles, maybe a quick swim after that to blow the cobwebs off and the guilt of the previous days sloth dissipates in a puddle of sweat and pride. A smile graces my face and I think I have been 'doing healthy' until it's time to get up for work the next day, I have had my usual 6 hours and surprise surprise I haven't recovered, I am sore everywhere and that’s me buggered for another few days until the pain and exhaustion go away and I do the same thing all over again.

But it's fine, I will have a lie in at the weekend... I will catch up then.

I realised recently though, more so through my advancing years than from any one event, that my body doesn’t care if I went to bed late on Wednesday, woke up early on Thursday, had another long day on Friday and am ‘saving up’ my slumber for Saturday to spend it all on a twelve hour holiday in dreamland. It needed the rest then. It needed the benefits of a good, restful nights sleep on those days and when it didn’t get them, it had to adapt and find another way to deal with the problem. Most likely, by cutting the power supply to essential services like brain function, problem solving and reaction times.

Brake, The Road Safety Charity discusses the effects of sleep deprivation at their worst:

·        One study found one in six crashes resulting in death or injury on major roads are fatigue-related

·        About 40% of fatigue-related crashes involve commercial vehicle drivers, often in the largest vehicles on our roads that can cause the most harm in a crash.

·        Research suggests driving tired can be as dangerous as drink-driving [10], and is a significant factor in many rear end crashes [11]

Long lies and top up power naps are enjoyable and certainly have their place but getting your body into a pattern and being consistent is key to maintaining peak physical and mental performance.

Like with all things ‘good for us’ (exercising, eating clean, mindfulness etc), moderation and consistency are more important than ‘resetting’ and ‘catching up’. These are the true measures of success. The fittest, healthiest people are not the fittest and healthiest because they are naturally good at being fit and healthy, they aren't that way by accident. They are the fittest and healthiest because of their unrelenting consistency towards the goal of being the fittest and the healthiest, because they do things to make themselves so every day…

Not the odd day here and there, not even every other day, EVERY DAY.

Renowned entrepreneur, Author and CEO Margaret Heffernan sums it up better than I ever could – ‘When people are tired the first thing that goes is their ability to think for themselves.’

I need to wake my arse up and get thinking!

ROBERT

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