The clocks are going back soon (in the northern hemisphere), and the extra hour in bed will bring a moment’s respite to people hit by the global sleep-deprivation epidemic.
But it’s time to start fighting back. Because it is
an epidemic, a real medical emergency. Neuroscientist Matthew Walker’s astonishing new book Why We Sleep
lists how sleep-deprivation is a key factor in an array of life-threatening diseases. It is permanent in its effects. And over the last 75 years the number of people in ‘developed’ countries suffering from harmful levels of sleep deprivation has climbed from 8% to 50%.
The problem is a combination of quantity and quality – the latter is relatively easy to fix. Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution
describes how we can start to take sleep seriously, including not using your phone as an alarm clock, and taking steps to make your bedroom a special place.
So here’s the checklist:
Accept that sleep is important. It’s when you get a lot of stuff done.
Do what you can to get more of it, at a regular time.
Make sure your bedroom is an appealing place. Keep it tidy (reports show that sleeping surrounded by clutter means you get less done the next day) and add some beauty.
Get in the habit of having a digital sunset: no gadgets for an hour or so before bedtime. Both the screens themselves and the addictive material they deliver will follow you into your dreams.
Use a real alarm clock, that doesn’t light up unless you want it to. Don’t use a phone – it’ll be lurking there all night, ready to pounce in the morning.
And perhaps read a book before sleeping. The science is strong: reading a (real) book at bedtime can bring a marked improvement to quality of sleep. But choose carefully: Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor of psychology and author of Stumbling on Happiness, has described Matthew Walker’s book as “a canny pleasure that will have you turning pages well past your bedtime”…