‘Sleep is the best meditation’ – Dalai Lama
We’ve all been made aware of the debilitating effects of severe sleep deprivation; memory is impaired, reality is distorted, and we can experience hallucinations. Ultimately, sleep is a basic life need, we all know that. However, what we may not be so aware of is that not getting enough sleep, or the right sleep, on a daily basis can also have effects on our health.
There is a strong link between sleep and physical and mental health, with sleep having been shown to be the biggest single contributor to living better. Without adequate sleep we compromise on our performance, our mood, and our interpersonal relationships. Sleep has also been shown to protect the immune system – an essential element of our physical health. This can be seen in the workplace as the annual cost of lost sleep to the UK is around £30bn a year, equivalent to almost 2% of GDP. This shows that it is essential that we are allowing our body and minds enough time to recuperate from the day.
So why do so many of us not sleep enough, or get the right kind of sleep? Our lifestyle and environmental factors can considerably impact our sleep quality. We live in a fast-paced society and sleep is often sacrificed and not prioritised as much as it should be.
Take the upcoming weeks as an example. Christmas is associated with holidays and time-off, but we are often busier than ever. On Christmas eve; children don’t sleep from the excitement of Father Christmas, adults are late night present wrapping and extended family are food prepping. Constant excitement and feeling energised feels great in the short-term. But when paired with one too many glasses of wine, too much late-night snacking and long drives, it can considerably impact our sleep quality and time to renew, which is just not sustainable. Does this sound familiar? If so, improving the quality of your sleep may be something to focus on.
One way to maximise the quality of your sleep, is to take time throughout your day to reflect on how you are feeling, both in and outside of work. Using our Feelings Wheel and reflecting on where you spend most of your time, will help you see how you can improve your sleep.
If you spend the majority of your time in ‘energise’ and some time in ‘stress’ during the excitement of Christmas, then you risk not spending enough time in “renew”. The “renew” quadrant helps us to feel more refreshed. Therefore, if you sacrifice this over the festive period you may feel “burnout” when returning to work in the new year. Allowing this reflection during our waking hours and allowing more time for rest and renewal, can positively impact our quality of sleep and limit a reduction in long-term physical and mental health.
Similarly, if during working hours you spend most of your time between ‘stress’ and ‘energise’ you may need to take a stock check and see what you can do to ensure that you spend some time in the ‘renew’ zone on a day to day basis.
The ‘renew’ zone looks different for everyone, but some ideas are:
- going for a long walk
- taking some screen-free time
- having a hot bath
Don’t risk spending Christmas feeling burnt-out, take the time to reflect on your emotions and feelings, to make the most of the festive season.
 Sainsbury’s Living Well Index
 MHF Sleep Report – 2011
 Zager A, Andersen ML, Ruiz FS, Antunes IB, & Tufik S (2007) Effects of acute and chronic sleep loss on immune modulation of rats [Electronic version]. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 293 R504-R509.