sleep 101

Sleep 101: How to finally get a good night’s rest

Getting under the covers for a good night’s sleep is what keeps us healthy – both physically and mentally. Not only does 40 winks improve memory and cognitive function, it also boosts the immune system, lowers the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and helps regulate your mood. It can also improve athletic performance, aid in weight management, and improve your skin’s appearance. 

But are you getting enough of it to reap the benefits? There’s plenty of tell-tale signs if you’re not – you most likely feel fatigued and irritable and have trouble concentrating, which could cause you to underperform at work or when playing sports. Being overly tired is also often a culprit that causes road accidents, for example.

The optimal sleep

The ideal amount of sleep we need each night is between six and eight hours to achieve optimal health and wellbeing, according to Claudine Gillard, a sleep consultant in the UAE, who conducted a sleep workshop at Livehealthy Festival 2023.

“A lot of people will come to me and say, I don’t think I sleep deeply or I wake up a lot,” she says. “Scientific research has shown that we don’t sleep 100 percent of the time and that actually only about 20-30 percent is deep sleep. From a sleep perspective (also called architecture), that’s healthy.”

Building a natural sleep rhythm

Trouble with sleeping is often a direct result of things that we’re doing in our lives that we could easily change. For example, you should have a natural sleep rhythm which means that you’ll feel tired at a certain time in the evening, and you should be paying attention to it, adds Gillard.  

If you try to veer away from that natural rhythm, your sleep architecture won’t go through the required stages of sleep. So, you may get 20-30 percent of deep sleep, but your mind and body may not be able to take advantage of the other stages, including REM (also known as dream sleep).

And when you sleep, you experience memory consolidation, your emotions are processed, your muscles relax, your organs regenerate and create blood cells, and your deep tissue also heals – all good things for the body and mind.

Sleeping to create a functional working day

sleep 101 Claudine Gillard
Claudine Gillard at the Livehealthy Festival 2023

The reason it’s really important to create a good sleep pattern is the knock-on effect it has to when you are mentally most effective, Gillard explains. People who are early risers are most effective about 10am, maybe sometimes even earlier (which is great for a 9-5 job) but they become less productive as the day goes on. People who wake slightly later but still before 7am are more productive in the morning or early afternoon, and those who are late to bed are very productive between 2 and 5pm – which may not fit in with a traditional working day.

Can we nap?

Who doesn’t love a quick snooze on the sofa in the middle of the day? As we get older, the more it becomes enjoyable. But Gillard advises a short nap should suffice and urges you to put an alarm on to wake you from your slumber. “The time will come when you’re ready to take on a power nap and that’s fine. It should be 20 minutes at the midpoint of your day,” she says. “And the way you do a power nap is to lay down and set your alarm for 30 minutes – as it should take you about 10 minutes to fall asleep and then you’ll get 20 minutes of productive downtime.” Gillard describes the midpoint of your day as the middle of the 16 hours you are awake – making sure it won’t then affect your night-time sleep.

Sleepless nights with children

Touching briefly on sleep deprivation in parents, she truly believes that if you are up with your baby because he/she is not sleeping, then you need to look at the root problem as to why your baby is not sleeping. Because once your baby sleeps through the night, so will you.

Sleep is crucial for our bodies to repair and rejuvenate, so it’s important to make sure we give our bodies the time they need to do so, by practicing good sleep hygiene and creating a comfortable sleeping environment. And quoting Matthew Walker – a popular sleep guru that Gillard follows – “Sleep is not an optional lifestyle luxury, it is a non-negotiable biological necessity”.

Goodnight and sleep tight! is for every body and mind in the UAE. This magazine is all about moderation, making small changes, little additions and the odd subtraction.



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