Sleep deprivation is like being drunk
Our reaction time decreases, and risk taking increases. Dr Guy tells us, ‘If you’ve been awake for seventeen hours, your cognitive functioning is the equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 5% which is the UK legal limit. If you’ve been awake for twenty-two, it’s twice that.’
'We see an increase of activity in our amygdala, which is mostly associated with threat detecting, but it’s not just the fear based flight or flight stuff that we see swing. We also see excitable behaviour increase, so you do go from hysteria to fear.'
Apps ruin sleep
‘Sleep tech has risen’ explains Dr Guy, ‘the rise of technology is playing a big role in reducing sleep quality, but could sleep tech be the saviour? My view is that if an app is providing a positive enhancement to your life then use it.’
The pros of sleep tracking apps: ‘I’ve seen lots of people take them on board and they’ve helped to make the connection between their lifestyle habits, their exercise, smoking, stress, caffeine, alcohol and their sleep quality, then they’ve modified their behaviour.’
The cons: ‘Their ability to measure sleep effectively is not ideal. A lot of them are movement based, so they’re making this huge assumption that if you haven’t moved for 90 minutes, you’ve had a cycle of sleep. Also, we now have a new sleep disorder: orthosomnia, which is this obsession of over-tracking. This is leading individuals to become desperate in search of that perfect sleep score, which is leading to sleep anxiety.’
Naps are bad
‘I’m a huge fan of power napping. This is not to catch up on sleep, this is on top of your biological sleep need. There are two ideal times in which you can sleep: the night time, and post lunch. A power nap is anywhere between ten and twenty minutes, ideally between midday and three pm.
The important thing to remember is that when you drop off, you are only in the lightest stages of sleep, and actually in the lighter stages you can still hear, feel, smell taste. So you don’t know whether you’re asleep or not, so take the pressure off yourself. Allow yourself to be still and rest, because the chances are you may actually be sleeping. But it’s a practice thing as well, I can take someone from saying they can’t nap, to being a power napping ninja in three months, but it requires daily practice... As long as it's not impacting your night time sleep, then you're good to go.'
Teenagers are lazy
Well, in this context anyway! Dr Guy explains why teens are so tired, ‘One of the special, biological phenomena that occur in the teenage years is that you get a delay in your melatonin levels. Melatonin is the sleep promoting hormone. So you hit your teenage years, and suddenly your melatonin starts being released a couple of hours later than that of your parents… This is a big problem at the moment, because teenagers need more sleep than adults but they’re naturally inclined to go to bed later and they’re having to get up earlier for school, which means they’re one of the most sleep deprived groups on the planet.’
Sleep affects your mental health
'I always say that insomnia hangs out on the same street corner as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, OCD, certainly within the mental health space. A lot of the brain chemicals that are responsible for enabling us to have good mental health, also enable us to have good sleep. So when one of them becomes disrupted, naturally the other becomes disrupted as well, they tend to have this amplifying effect. For a long time it was said, poor sleep is a symptom of poor mental health, but what we now know is that it can actually be a bit of a canary down the mine, it’s an early warning sign. So it’s just respecting sleep and going, 'this thing is incredible, I’m going to make time for it' and hopefully that will help to manage the anxiety or depression etc.’