100% of the top conditions seen by a General Practitioner can be related to poor sleep. Some of these include:

  • Hypertension
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Pain
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Cancer

We have different phases of sleep including:

REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement):
The body is paralysed but brainwaves are most similar to when awake.
This is important for memory consolidation and emotional control

NonREM sleep
Important for physical repair and learning
Brainwaves are slow, growth hormone is secreted. Children have a lot of this phase of sleep, it gradually decreases across adulthood.

During sleep, the brain has a special detoxification and clearance system called the Glymphatic System. Breakdown products and proteins are cleared by immune cells specific to the brain.

Sleep complaints are very common and include:

  • Snoring while sleeping – 48%
  • Snort, gasp or stop breathing – 11%
  • Trouble falling asleep – 16%
  • Unrested during day regardless of hours of sleep – 27%
  • not enough sleep – 26%

Poor sleep and chronic pain have a vicious cycle with new research showing sleep disruptions increase pain, more than pain disrupts sleep.

Quote: The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep. E. Joseph Cossman

The most common sleep disorder in the USA is “insufficient sleep”. The number of recorded sleep hours is steadily declining, with reports in 2001 of 7h sleep on worknights, compared with 6.7h in 2008. Almost 50% of adults get less than the recommended amount of sleep and up to 57% of children get less than needed.

Global effects of insufficient sleep include:

Mental health: anxiety, depression, panic
Physical health: inflammation, high blood pressure, obesity
Cognitive Performance: reduced short term memory, verbal fluency and creativity
Physical performance: decreased reaction time and coordination
Emotional Intelligence: ethical decision making and identifying emotional states.

Tips for better sleep:

  1. Start with a good wind-down before sleep. Avoid strong overhead lights as these make your body think it is daytime. Have a minimum of 1h wind down time to bring your body into parasympathetic mode ready for sleep.
  2. Control light exposure: use blue light blocking glasses 2h before bedtime when using devices or watching a screen. Use night time control for screen brightness/blue light blocking on your mobile phone.
  3. Turn mobile phone into Airplane mode or ideally keep in another room where you won’t be disturbed.
  4. Choose your bedtime so you get sufficient sleep – adults need 7-8h per night. Wake up time may be decided for you as per your schedule, YOU have the choice of when to go to bed.

Set up your bedroom for a good night’s sleep:

  • Dark
  • Cool
  • Clean
  • Silent
  • No pets
  • No wakeful stimuli eg devices

First thing in the morning ensure you have exposure to full spectrum light (ideally sunlight) for 30 minutes of the first 2 hours of waking. This will help set your day-night clock for better sleep. Aim for 10 minute bursts of light every couple of hours.