Prof. Dr. med. Verena Briner, FRCP at the Swiss medical centre at Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence
Days are wired with international time zones, infused with caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and late night screen time, then we try to sleep. Disturbed sleep means less power all round, it diminishes concentration which can be detrimental to our work, causes mood swings, effects our memory and can lead to depression. While there are steps you can take to improve sleep you can actually become too tired to address the core issue if you ignore the problems.
How much sleep do I need?
Sleep is an active process and vital for optimal cognitive and physical function. Dreaming occurs during sleep’s rapid eye movement phase (REM), and is very important for memory consolidation.
Generally adults need around six to nine hours rest every 24 hours, this might be a good eight hour stretch at night, or less with a nap in the day. Older adults can need less sleep. Interestingly also people, who are within a few minutes starting REM phase may sleep sufficient although for only three to four hours. Teens can need more sleep upto 10 hours and pre-schoolers upto 13 hours.
What is Healthy Sleep?
Each of us has a personal ‘sleep routine’ perhaps reading a chapter, sipping a hot drink, puffing pillows, after which you fall asleep within 15-30 minutes of lights out. Sleep should then be continuous, at least without long periods of wakefulness and external disturbance. Ideally in the morning you should wake up feeling fresh and recharged.
Healthy Sleep has positive effects on both your body and mind. It can increase your metabolic reserves, maintain fitness, improve brain functionality and your ability to cope with stress.
In a small corner of our brain is a masterclock regulating mood, memory and our sleep cycle. This is our circadian rhythm and it is regulated by light and dark. As night falls, our body naturally produces melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, as daylight comes our masterclock sends wake up signals. Blue light emitted from computer and mobile screens delays the release of melatonin and upsets your circadian rhythm. This might be manageable for one or two nights a week, research shows we can recover our synchronisation, but it is vital not to lose your natural rhythm altogether.
Having mindful routines in the day and an environment conducive to rest is called ‘sleep hygiene’. Basic good practice means daily exercise refreshed with daylight, not dining too late so there’s time to digest. Your bedroom should be optimised for sleep, a place of tranquillity, so your mind can empty. Bedding should suit you, it is the first thing you touch, choose the right pillows and mattress. Minimise noise and of course light should be blocked out to work with those circadian rhythms.
Mind and Body Reset
So if you are having problems sleeping take a look at your daily schedule. Do you have time for your meals, for a brake, to finish your work properly, to solve problems, etc? Are you in a dilemma between work and private life – work life balance? Are you at the right place in the business world or is it the right job? Answer these questions. The first step to improve your ‘sleep hygiene’. Consider a pause and reset with a “Body and Mind Balance” programme at the Waldhotel which includes exercises, healthy cuisine, bedrooms designed for the perfect night’s sleep and therapeutic relaxation in fresh Swiss mountain scenery. You will gain new disciplines, see the benefits of working with your circadian rhythm and discover how to wake up feeling marvellously refreshed.