Dr. Raghoonanan’s Top 8 Sleep Tips:
By Dr. Shehna Raghoonanan and Emily Grenfell
This week at babylon one of the most common subjects people sought advice for in our Ask feature, was sleep. We asked Dr. Shehna Raghoohanan about some common misconceptions.
1. How much sleep do we need?
The average adult needs somewhere between seven and nine hours per night. The rule is that you should be waking up naturally. If you need to be woken up by your alarm you might need to get to bed earlier.
2. Is it true that we sleep more effectively before midnight?
Scientific evidence does not support this. However, our deepest and most productive sleep is gained in the first third of our sleep pattern. This is the time when memory consolidation takes place and when the bulk of cell revitalisation occurs. In truth it doesn’t matter at what time this happens, it only matters that we’re not disturbed.
3. What happens when we get too little sleep?
Consistent loss of sleep can lead to people being accident prone and less responsive mentally, effectively lowering our intelligence levels. Because memory consolidation occurs during sleep, not getting enough can lead to memory loss. Too little sleep may lead to weight gain, depression, and high blood pressure.
4. Can sleeping in at the weekend pay off my sleep debt?
Yes it can, but sleeping later at the weekend can lead to what recent studies have called ‘social jet lag’ which means living against your body clock. Even altering your routine by two hours at the weekend can contribute to obesity. The best solution is to get enough sleep every night of the week to keep you functioning well during the day.
5. How does sleep affect my skin?
Chronic sleep loss can cause your body to release more of the stress hormone cortisol. If your body releases too much of this it can break down skin collagen (the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic). This leads to lacklustre skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes.
6. How can I make sure I get great quality sleep, every night?
You should always aim to regulate your sleeping and waking times, even at the weekend.
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, lower the light level, read, or listen to calming music.
Avoid eating late. This can lead to uncomfortable digestive problems.
If you have a lot of stress in your life that impacts on your sleep, write down what’s concerning you before bed. Often just organising our thoughts on a piece of paper is enough to calm our minds.
Avoid caffeine after mid afternoon and keep alcohol intake low.
7. What if I wake up in the night and I can’t sleep again?
If this happens the best thing to do is get out of bed and do something while keeping the lights down low. You can also practice relaxation techniques. One good technique is to calmly regulate your breathing and focus on each muscle in your body in turn.
8. Is it ok to take sleeping pills?
Sleeping pills should really only be taken after consulting a doctor. You should also be careful about forming a dependence on them. Never take pills prescribed to your partner as the dosage levels will be different. If the dosage is too high then the drug will still be in your system the next day, leading to grogginess as serious as intoxication.
We spend approximately a third of our lives asleep and without that third the rest of our time would be less productive and enjoyable.
We at babylon take all aspects of your health seriously. If you think you might be struggling with your sleep routine, or regularly getting less sleep than you need, speak to one of our GPs. We’re here at any time between 8am and 8pm, and you can call us from the comfort of your home.