DR MAX PEMBERTON: Follow my script for superior sleep — it could save your life
How much sleep do you get? If you’re like me, then this isn’t always an easy question to answer. Sometimes I get an early night, but more often than not, I go to bed very late and get up early.
But then other times I have a nice lie-in. I probably range from four hours to ten hours’ sleep a night depending on what work I have on. I work night shifts so that often complicates things. It’s the same for many friends who have young children. I am rarely tired though, so feel rather smug about this.
Or at least I did until I read some new research published last week.
The study showed that irregular sleeping patterns — people who go to sleep at different times throughout the week, or who get an inconsistent number of hours of shut-eye each night — could have a higher chance of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels).
This can cause arteries to narrow, reducing blood flow and the amount of oxygen and other nutrients reaching the body, or can create blood clots that block the artery, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
I am rarely tired, so feel rather smug about this. Or at least I did until I read some new research published last week
The study found that participants whose sleep duration varied for more than two hours across the course of a week were 40 per cent more likely to have high amounts of hardened plaque in their arteries.
What’s more, fragmented or erratic sleep patterns have also been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Now, I no longer feel so cocky about my erratic sleep patterns.
I wonder if the effects of a disrupted sleep pattern are because the variation contributes to an overall increase in stress levels and this in turn causes the damage?
I also wonder if mood has a role to play.
We know that erratic sleep patterns can also affect mood, and this in turn can increase stress hormones in the body, which raises the risk of things such as heart disease.
Those of us who have irregular sleeping habits should take note.
CREATE A BEDTIME ROUTINE — AND KEEP IT
So I am determined to try to break the habit and get back into a regular sleeping pattern.
I mentioned this to a colleague who used to work in sleep medicine and they gave me some helpful tips on how to get a good night’s sleep. The key to this is establishing a pattern and sticking to it.
I mentioned this to a colleague who used to work in sleep medicine and they gave me some helpful tips on how to get a good night’s sleep. The is establishing a pattern and sticking to it
- The first step is to set up a bedtime routine. Currently I tend to keep working till I feel sleepy, then slope off to bed. Yet research suggests that for many people this is a recipe for disaster. Our body clocks are all different and if you tend to be a night owl, rather than an early bird, you’ll find your bedtime getting later and later if you wait until you are tired. Instead, start a routine that begins at the same time each night, irrespective of whether you feel tired. Run a bath, clean your teeth, change into your pyjamas. By creating habits and cues over time, your brain will learn to associate this with getting sleepy. With repetition over time, the routine gets reinforced and this will result in an increasingly stable sleep pattern.
- Consider setting a warning alarm on your phone two hours before you plan to start getting ready for bed. Once it goes off, finish your jobs and then mentally start to wind down. Stop checking your emails. Avoid social media and try to stay off your phone.
- Different people need different amounts of sleep at night. Most people need around seven hours a night though, so use this as a yardstick to begin with. Work out when you need to get up and work backwards to find your bedtime.
- It’s not just getting to bed at the same time that’s important — it’s also getting up in the morning. Put your alarm on the other side of the room and do not hit the snooze button! You might be tired for the first few days, but persevere. Eventually you’ll reset your body clock so that you naturally wake up and get up at the same time each morning.
- Avoid afternoon naps or dozing on the sofa after work. This isn’t restful sleep and will contribute to further sleep- pattern disruption. If you’re tired during the day, then use this as evidence that you need longer in bed and tweak your bedtime accordingly. Alter your sleep timings by 15-minute increments over a few days.
- Avoid stimulants. We all know not to have coffee after mid-afternoon to avoid disrupting our sleep pattern. But chocolate can have a negative effect, so ditch that, too. Also you should have no alcohol two hours before bed as it’s been shown to disrupt sleep patterns as well.
- Follow your schedule even at weekends. The evidence shows that consistency is key to fixing your sleep routine. I’m going to give it a go for a month. I will report back and let you know how I get on. Why not join me?
What a role model Vanessa Feltz is. You’re in your 60s in a relationship that you think is fine, and then you discover your partner of 16 years is cheating. It’s harsh having to face older age alone. She’s allowed herself to mourn the end of her relationship, but she’s also determined not to let it define her.
KATE’S RIGHT TO FOCUS ON THE CHILDREN
The Princess of Wales has shown herself to be a true advocate for mental health in recent years, but she’s hit the nail on the head with her new project to raise awareness of the importance of the first five years of life. Problems in adulthood, from depression to alcoholism, often have roots in a person’s early years. It’s better to focus on prevention than cure. But I really approved of her comments when she spoke to Capital FM DJ Roman Kemp recently. She emphasised that, ‘It’s important to stress we can’t take a fatalistic outlook on this. For those who haven’t had happy childhoods, they can still go on to happy, healthy lives with support and the right interventions.’
This is exactly why I enjoy working in mental health so much. People who have had difficult childhoods can turn their lives around. Yes, it’s tough and yes, there are struggles along the way. It’s difficult to hold on to this hope. But human beings do have the ability to rise above adversity, change and adapt.
- I have thought long and hard about the issue of abortion and I support a woman’s right to choose. It’s a difficult decision to make. I understand why there are ‘buffer zones’, so-called Public Spaces Protection Orders, outside clinics to prevent protests which might add to a woman’s distress. But I found it chilling that Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for standing, silently praying outside a clinic in Birmingham. In a clip online she was seen being arrested by police after saying she ‘might be’ praying inside her head. She was acquitted last week in what has been seen as a victory for civil rights. To my mind, she was effectively arrested for a thought-crime. She wasn’t protesting. Simply standing and thinking something can never be a crime.
DR MAX PRESCRIBES…
How often do you look in the mirror and not like what you see? I speak to many women who confess to feeling unattractive. We are told to love ourselves, but are bombarded with unrealistic images of beauty. This book is the perfect antidote. It uncovers the powerful forces that perpetuate these ideals and reminds us that we don’t need to ‘fix’ how we look, only how we feel about ourselves.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk