The latest episode in our Resilience Unravelled series has now been released, Resilience Unravelled – Sleep skills. Optimise your sleep for resilience.
In this episode, Dr. Russell Thackeray talks to Mollie McGlocklin, creator of Sleep is a Skill. Mollie helps people optimise their sleep by using a blend of technology, accountability and behavioural change. Her interest in sleep came when she went through a period of intense insomnia and ended up feeling very low. After seeing a doctor whose answer was to prescribe sleeping tablets, Mollie realised she had to make changes. She had to develop sleep skills to help her restore her sleep pattern and make it reliable. She started researching and became interested in circadian rhythm optimisation and chronobiology and started to bring these ideas into her own life.
Most people operate within the 24-hour circadian rhythm and need between 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep. This can be affected by gender, age and stress though. Within the sleep pattern there are four different stages of sleep – Light, Transitional, Deep and REM. Generally a healthy, active person aims to have the majority of deep sleep at the beginning of the night. This changes to the REM sleep that helps us prepare for the day ahead before transitioning into being fully awake.
When our sleep isn’t working properly we need develop sleep skills to bring it back to a level of homeostasis so we wake up feeling refreshed.
Chronobiology is the study of physiological cycles and rhythms. To induce sleep we need to regulate our body clock with alternate and consistent amounts of light and darkness. Nowadays, exposure to artificial light and spending a lot of time indoors means we don’t get access to the natural light we need. Our eyes connect to our masterclock or suprachiasmatic nucleus which regulates hormonal alignment of cortisol and melatonin. To help this work, we need to make sure we get plenty of light into our eyes during very early part of the morning. We also need to be aware that different types of lighting have different spectrums, some of which can suppress melatonin production. As well as light and darkness we also need to consider temperature. This should be higher during the day and lower at night so we need to be aware that things like meal timings and exercise can impact on this.
It’s OK to skip sleep during the week and catch up at the weekend – This is known as social jetlag. Based on our social obligations and opportunities we spend the bulk of our week on a particular rhythm. At the weekend we then change the consistency and go to bed later and wake up later. We’re also adding metabolic jetlag by changing what and when we eat, adding alcohol and more coffee. This tells our body that its normal rhythms have been thrown off and it’s going to be working overtime to get itself back on track. Because of this the body is no longer having a strong and even circadian rhythm and we spend the rest of the week out of alignment. We really need to treat the weekend the same as the week.
I’m sharper when I have less sleep – Some people might feel they experience this but it’s probably adrenalin or anxiety. There is a very thin line between anxiety and excitement or alertness. The sustainability also doesn’t work. Studies show that aptitude following sleep deprivation over a period of time is markedly different to someone fully rested. It just doesn’t add up and you’re fooling yourself that you’re sharper.
I sleep better when my pets and children are in bed with me – On the front end things that make you feel at ease and relaxed can help you drift off to sleep. In the long end though things don’t remain static. Animals move about. Children aren’t completely quiet so they cause frequent wake ups and stop you getting to the deep and REM sleep we need to feel rejuvenated.
There is also a lot of new technology that is available to help regulate sleep. Mollie gives a brief overview of some of the most interesting ideas which includes pillows, biofeedback, beds and lighting.
You can listen to the podcast in full and find out further information about Mollie here. Our previous podcast episodes and upcoming guest list are also available and there is an option to sign-up to receive our podcast episodes on release.
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You can get in touch with Mollie at Sleep is a skill.