How to ensure you’re getting the sleep you need to function

I’m not sure what’s worse – obliviously struggling to sleep. Or actually knowing why you’re struggling!

I’m a student on the Occupational & Organisational Psychology MSc and I REALLY LOVE every new topic. Or I thought I did.

Wide eyed, my mind was intrigued while researching the economic & organisational implications of fatigue. Bad sleeping habits cost the UK economy £30bn per year! We actually really physically do have a biological clock and it is controlled by things called circadian rhythms!

I had been to work, done the laundry, fed and bathed the kids before tucking them in to bed. I beavered away on my workplace wellbeing assignment in spite of the time. I wrote about how fatigue affects our cognitive ability, working memory and has major health implications. At 10.30pm

I headed off to bed feeling weary.

As I lay my head on the pillow I began to wake up! Wonderful!

Almost an hour later I was still awake! I know it was almost one hour because I regularly checked the time on my smartphone. Of course, I knew that by doing this the blue light given off from my smartphone would negatively affect my circadian rhythms and increase the sleep latency (getting to sleep) period that I was so frantically trying to reduce!!!!

I went through the process of what I had been trying to get across in my assignment and began to argue “with myself” that I needed to stop analysing my sleeping habits in order to relax my mind enough to sleep.

But then I checked the time again and remembered that Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep to be at their most productive the following day: which meant that I was already within the DANGER period as I had to be awake at 6.30am and it was currently 00.10!!!!

Oh to be ignorant….

This is what I should have done:

  1. Smart phones enable constant contact both in and out of work hours. Multiple studies have found this to have a negative effect on employee health and wellbeing. (Perlow, 2012; Thomée, 2011) Allow yourself to unplug at least 3 hours before you want to sleep to give your mind enough time to switch off in readiness for sleep.
  2. Our 24-hour society means round-the-clock possibilities for wakeful activity. Our circadian rhythms are left out of sync with how and when we are required to be awake. Environmental factors such as noise, food and light will affect our ability to relax and fall asleep as our body requires it, causing sleep latency problems when we try to sleep. (Roenneberg et al, 2003; Bass et al., 2012) Use the bedroom for sleeping only.
  3. Charge technology in another part of the house than where you sleep. Use an alarm clock rather than keep your phone in the bedroom.
  4. Working varying shift patterns can increase the risks of fatigue and burnout. Work with your employer to make sure you have time to recover from irregular shift patterns and keep a good work life balance. (Garbarino & Magnavita 2017)
  5. Mindfulness is recommended by the NHS and found in multiple academic studies to make a significant difference to stress levels. You can check your mood and take steps to engage in healthy mood practices here
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