I am sure the BBC news came as no surprise to any parent, as they reported that "lack of sleep can impair many functions, including concentration and memory." It was reported in the latest edition of the US sleep journal that researchers found soldiers struggled to make snap decisions in emotionally charged situations after being deprived of sleep for two nights. The authors suggest this could be important for other professions, including doctors, who have broken sleep and need to make quick decisions in a crisis.
The researchers studied 26 healthy soldiers to judge whether a given course of action would be "appropriate" or "inappropriate" in a range of test situations; from minor inconsequential ones to serious dilemmas where the decision could theoretically harm another person. In general, the soldiers found it harder to perform the task after they had been awake for 53 continuous hours. The longest stint ever recorded was a person who went 11.5 days without sleep, but they suffered psychiatric symptoms, such as, psychosis.
The report also raised concern regarding the trend towards a 24-hour society, with people burning the candle at both ends. I have added here are a few common sense tips about aiding a healthy body clock:
Sleep Hygiene1. Getting Ready For Bed
a. Develop a routine before bedtime, so your body can learn that this process means it is time to relax and stop thinking about work or other worries. Perhaps drink a glass of milk.
b. Don’t take your worries to bed. Leave your worries about job and daily life behind as you get ready to go to bed. Some people find it useful to assign a "worry period" during the evening or late afternoon to deal with their issues.
c. Light snacks before bed. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, may help you to sleep.
d. Practice relaxation techniques before bed.
e. Establish a pre-sleep ritual. Pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath or a few minutes of reading, can help you sleep. Don’t watch TV as this can be engaging and keep you awake.
2. Sleep Time
a. Routine - Fix a regular bedtime and awakening time. Do not allow bedtime and awakening time to drift, as the body "gets used" to falling asleep at a certain time.
b. Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. It is common to believe that alcohol helps with sleep. However, whilst alcohol has an immediate sleep-inducing effect, a few hours later as the alcohol levels in your blood start to fall with a resulting wake-up effect, leading to disrupted sleep.
c. Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. Caffeine acts as a stimulant and is contained in many foods, such as chocolate. Food and drinks containing caffeine should be avoided before bed.
d. Exercise - but not right before bed. Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon, can help sleep. But don’t exercise within the two hours before bedtime as this can decrease the ability to fall asleep.
3. Sleeping Environment
a. Bedding. Make your bedding as comfortable as possible. Also find a comfortable temperature setting and keep the room ventilated.
b. Eliminate as much light as possible. This will help your brain understand it is night time and help with the sleep process
c. Block out all distracting noise This will reduce the chances of being disturbed
d. Reserve the bedroom. Never use the bedroom as an office or a place of work. Let your body "know" that the bedroom is associated with sleeping.