On the 16th of December the opulent Royal Institution in London’s West End welcomed Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience’s sleep scientist Dr. Nicola Barclay. Supported by the mattress company Tempur, she delivered a highly informative talk that delved into some of the latest ground breaking research in the field, as well as offering up tips that we can include in our daily lives in order to get a better night’s rest.
According to a new study the British economy loses up to £40 billion a year due to sleep deprivation, citing overwork and technology interference as key indicators in this issue. Some of the more adverse effects of sleep deprivation in later life can include diabetes, hypertension, and an increased risk of heart disease. That is why it’s more important than ever to correct the activity that we spend a third of our life doing.
Did you know that it normally takes around 90 minutes to enter into a deep state of sleep? Or that we have an internal biological clock called the suprachiasmatic nucleus that tell us when it’s bedtime? Or even more astonishingly, that there is no one piece of definitive evidence from an evolutionary perspective that supports why we actually sleep. There are however many theories which include the need for energy conservation, memory consolidation and the latest and most radical idea, that the gaps between our neurons widen during sleep to allow fluid to flush out toxins.
All in all, the mechanics of what is happening under our hood is fascinating. What we took away from the event is that sleeping is about the quality of your most intimate environment, the bedroom. As well as the importance of what Dr. Barclay calls our ‘sleep hygiene’. This means everything from the level of light you expose yourself to, to the amount of technology you allow into your bedroom. Diet also affects us, and there is a lot of research around the relationship between exercise and sleep. Throw in tart cherries, walnuts and lavender oil for a swift send off into slumber.
After such a lecture we were of course eager to question some of the points discussed by Dr. Barclay such as, which positions are best to maintain during sleep? And what type of ergonomic pillows should we consider? Is memory foam the way to go?
We often understate the role that sleep plays in our lives and think of it as just something that happens after a long day, but actually the quality of sleep can affect so many aspects of our lives. Thank you to Tempur and Dr. Nicola Barclay for a highly informative event.