Trouble sleeping? Don’t worry – you’re not alone, in fact more than a third of us get less than 7 hours a night. We have a growing sleep epidemic – in our digital, always-on worlds, we’re struggling to switch off.
This month we’re talking about mindfulness, and not just because the alliteration with May feels nice. We’ve got a huge audience of some of the most connected people on the planet – a community that spends an enormous amount of time online…the average adult spends eleven hours looking at screens, nearly doubling the shut-eye we’re catching.
And we ourselves are the biggest culprits: not only is bdlisting growing super fast, we’re plugged in all day and to top it off we’re also a team with a genuine love of all things digital.
Sizing the problem
Sleeplessness isn’t just making you grumpy – it’s costing the global industry dearly. In Australia, the financial cost of sleeplessness, including healthcare costs and the loss of productivity, is at $26.2 billion a year. For the US, it’s at $63.2 billion, also known as 63 x Kylie Jenner.
That’s because 13% of the population have the medical condition known as excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), with 6% suffering from chronic sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnoea. Today, we’re dedicating less time to winding down, spending more time being reachable by our employers, or focusing on side hustles, and are multi-tasking or multi-screening for most of our waking hours (Netflix on the laptop in bed while scrolling Insta, anyone?).
Layer into that the effects of parenting and you’re likely to be even more exhausted. Unfortunately newborns and infants don’t know that you’re supposed to be getting 7-9 hours sleep a night. New mothers lose on average one hour a night from their pre-pregnancy sleep, and new fathers lose 15 minutes. And this impact is felt for the first six years of a child’s life. Gulp.
The effects of not sleeping
Research has revealed that sleep deficiency increases your chances of suffering from a stroke, diabetes and depression. It makes you less productive, age faster, slows your learning and memory, makes pain less tolerable, and makes you…well, less tolerable too.
Just one night of sleep deprivation leads to a 60% increase in reactivity to negative thoughts.
It turns out that sleep is our internal house cleaner. Smiling Mind talked us through the three stages of sleep: light sleep, rapid-eye movement and deep sleep.
It’s that deep sleep you’re after, says Smiling Mind. “During deep sleep the spaces between our brain cells expand by as much as 60%, allowing cerebrospinal fluid to flush through and remove toxins from our brain.” Here comes the science bit…
“One of these toxins is beta-amyloid – a protein that can lead to the build-up and formation of plaques and create memory impairment. In fact, researchers have found that the amount of delta waves we create during deep sleep serve as a biological marker for youth.”
That’s right, if you’re spending $$s on the latest and greatest face creams and serums, but still scrolling Instagram at 12am, we’re looking at you. In fact, the blue light our devices transmit disrupt the body’s melatonin, which is critical for setting your body’s clock.
Poor sleep = bad. So what do we do about it?
Turns out, mindfulness and sleep actually go hand-in-hand! Practicing mindfulness and meditation builds up a relaxation reflex, which you can call upon at times of need. Good sleep starts with good daytime habits.
As Dr Moira Junge at Sleep Health Foundation told us, “there is really clear evidence that mindfulness reduces hyperarousal and can increase our self awareness to make better decisions about lifestyle, self-care and self-compassion. This makes sleep come easier!”
Create a sleep ritual
In fixing sleeplessness there is not a one-cure-for-all (unfortunately!), says Dr Junge. “There are probably millions of ‘best top 5 sleep tips‘ lists, so beware that there is no one magic formula. There are a lot of individual differences in what works for some and not others, so it’s better to talk about principles rather than lists of ‘do’s and don’ts’.”
Instead, sleep requires a few vital ingredients. “Ensure you are ready for sleep, that you value sleep and that you place yourself in the right conditions”. According to Dr Junge, there are six main principles which cover all of these:
- Ensure you’re sleepy enough and ready for sleep (no use lying in bed awake for long stretches).
- Look after and manage your natural body clock (put away your ‘screens’ 1-2 hours before bed, have only dim lights on at night).
- Minimise internal disruptions (learn ways to calm your racing mind or increased heart rate, minimise alcohol and caffeine).
- Minimise external disruptions (noises, temperature, light).
- Develop a positive attitude to sleep (love your bed!).
- Practicing a quick Smiling Mind meditation when you rise in the morning or when winding down before going to bed at night can improve sleep quality!
Start ’em young!
Smiling Mind has sleep programs for both adults and children – download the free app and check them out! They believe that setting a healthy relationship with sleep starts young. As Dr Junge says “parents are very important when we talk about children’s sleep, and they can really help to shape good sleep experience” – and it has the added bonus on making sure the parents’ sleep isn’t disrupted either!
Children ‘model’ their behavior on their parents’, which means parents are able to influence by the attitudes they have to sleep. It sounds like a rested home is a happy (and productive!) home. That can only be a good thing for our side-hustling community!