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Are you getting enough sleep?

Here is the second article by Dr Isabelle Benard, a GP who practises at The Medical Chambers Kensington.

With our busy lives, spending a third of our life in bed might seem to some of us a waste of our precious time. As a result, around a third of people are sleep deprived and sleep less than the 7 hours recommended by health professionals.

Generalised fatigue and low energy are a direct result of this lack of sleep.

Here are a few reasons why we should all make time for our precious sleep:

It is a well-known fact that lack of sleep gradually builds up over days and weeks and has a negative impact on our organisms.

Within a few days, a reduction in our sleep significantly affects our ability to learn efficiently, memorise and concentrate. It also reduces our capacity to make important decisions and deal with stress.
More worryingly, recent studies have shown that a chronic lack of sleep can change our genetic makeup and make us more prone to obesity and type 2 diabetes. This is irreversible.

It is therefore essential to favour a good sleep hygiene and to stick to it, as part of a healthy lifestyle.


How to improve your sleep and performance:

  • Try to aim for at least seven hours of sleep at night. This may mean going to bed earlier than usual. Plan this ahead. Some telephone apps can help you record your sleep and track your own sleep rhythms to guide you.
  • Bright blue lights (LED lights, lights emanating from smart phones, tablets, televisions or computer screens) reduce our natural melatonin production and delays sleeping onset. Avoid using them 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Exercising in the day will help you sleep better at night, but avoid late night exercise, which will keep you awake.
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine (tea or coffee) in the afternoons.
  • If you do not sleep enough for a few days, try to make up for it on weekends and allow yourself to sleep late in the mornings, to catch up. This is not as good as sleeping regularly, but is still better than nothing.
  • Naps are also a good way to catch up on sleep and will boost your energy during the day. You can either aim for a short 10-minute nap or the more restoring 90-minute nap, which allows for a full sleep cycle.

Having regular seven hours of good night sleep will restore your energy and keep you healthy and efficient.
If you are feeling tired or fatigued, forget vitamins, stimulants or tonics; sleep is still by far the most natural, pleasant, efficient stimulant available...and it's free!

Dr Isabelle Benard MD General Practitioner