National bed month - are you getting enough sleep ?

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March is National Bed month, the annual campaign to ensure we all understand the benefits of getting the right amount of high quality sleep each night.

We have learnt a great deal in recent years about the importance of sleeping well and the damages consequences for us if we get too little sleep. The national interest in wellbeing is helping as it is making us look at some aspects of our lives that we may have taken for granted

8 hours is the ideal amount of sleep we can get each night but anything less than 7 hours is bad for us. Not getting enough sleep is associated with a number of serious health conditions including obesity, cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure. Poor sleep affects us in all spheres of life whether it’s in terms of performance at work where it can result in impaired concentration, poor decision and increased errors, through to our personal lives where our enjoyment of leisure activities and even our libido can be adversely affected.

The increased complexity of our personal and working lives means that many of us are getting considerably less sleep than the recommended 7-8 hours per night. There are a number of factors at play. Our addiction to new technology, especially mobile devices, means that we often find it hard to shut down. A long-hours working culture together with the blurring of the boundaries between home and work means that it is very easy to be sucked into bad sleep patterns.

So what can we do to ensure that we get both the right amount and the right quality of sleep?

• Try and maintain a regular sleep pattern that makes sure your internal clock isn’t disrupted.

• Keep the bedroom quiet and relaxing. Blackout blinds can be invaluable as sometimes even small amounts of light can disrupt sleep.

• Avoid drinking beverages with caffeine including tea and coffee in the evening. They are proven to inhibit sleep in most people

• Cease using mobile devices at least one hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by many devices is known to deter sleep. Avoid having computers or televisions in the bedroom.

• If tired during the day try and take a short nap. Often referred to as “power naps” these have been shown to be effective in restoring people’s energy levels. Even 20 minutes has been found to make a big difference to alertness and cognitive functioning.

• If despite your best efforts your sleep pattern doesn’t improve contact your GP. You may have a sleep disorder, so getting appropriate treatment is key to overcoming the problem.

Bank Workers Charity has a wide range of wellbeing related material available on their website. This can be accessed at bwcharity.org.uk

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