As we welcome sleep specialist Dr Ashish Bhatia for a series of webinars to help us all sleep better, we take a closer look at the science behind good sleep.
For many of us, January marks a time for starting new habits. According to Dr Ashish Bhatia, GP and founder of Humble Sleep, getting a good sleep should be top of our list of priorities because quality sleep is akin to a superpower. In fact, Dr Bhatia says that consistently having a decent sleep makes us happier, healthier, more harmonious, productive and peaceful.
So how was your sleep last night? Did you manage to switch off your phone a good hour before lights out? Perhaps your sleep was disturbed because you have young children, or maybe it was hard to unwind after work, or you struggle with insomnia. Whatever the reason, the facts speak for themselves: today the average UK resident sleeps for a lot less than the recommended seven to nine hours, and we get less sleep than our grandparents’ generation did. It’s a sign of the times; sleep is suffering in our busy lives, but Dr Bhatia says this is reversible, with 70% of those attending his sessions sticking to their sleep improvement resolutions a year down the line.
So what can be done? Better understanding the simple science is a good place to start. Dr Bhatia explains that our bodies work in sleep cycles of 90 minutes: “During a typical night we sleep in four 90-minute cycles, like waves on the beach,” he says. “And within each wave we have different phases in the sleep. During the early part of the night we prioritise essential deep sleep, and the less urgent but still important REM (rapid eye movement/dream sleep) in the latter. These phases are modulated by some of the neurotransmitters, which are sensitive to factors like light, exercise, foods(& drugs), temperature, stress and sleep spaces (LEFTSS). So our habits and what we do in the day (timing our LEFTSS right) impacts on sleep depth and quality.”
How to make and keep these healthy habits will be the focus of the first two sessions.
Dr Ashish Bhatia is on a mission to help us all sleep better (image: Humble Sleep)
Dr Bhatia adds: “It’s also important to note that it is natural to be awake for short periods between these sleep waves, and it’s actually common to wake several times a night, although we may have little recollection of doing so. But unfortunately, lying awake worrying about being awake, can contribute to insomnia.”
Insomnia (being ‘tired but wired at night’) plagues many of us – whether struggling to get to sleep, back to sleep, waking too early or feeling unsatisfied by sleep.
Many sufferers have accepted this is just the way it is, but according to Dr Bhatia, they need not: “Insomnia is common and with help is curable for most people in as little as six weeks,” he says. The challenge it that often trying harder to sleep can make it worse, so special strategies like Cognitive behavioural therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) are needed on top of good lifestyle habits. Two of our Sleep Skills sessions will focus in on insomnia and how to tackle it.
The final two of our six sessions will focus on surviving and thriving on shifts. With so many NHS colleagues working shifts, these sessions aim to help them develop a better quality of sleep. More of us are shift workers than we really think, says Dr Bhatia: “Don’t forget that parents are also shift workers when it comes to tackling bedtimes!”
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Humble Sleep skills
Simplifying the science and art of sleeping well
9 January 2024 – 1pm to 2pm – Part 1
16 January 2024 – 1pm to 2pm – Part 2 – Follow up
Exploring the science and sharing simple strategies to improve insomnia
23 January 2024 – 1pm to 2pm – Part 1
30 January 2024 – 1pm to 2pm – Part 2 – Follow up
Surviving and thriving on shifts – also exploring kids and carers
Helping shift workers, parents and carers adapt to the challenges of disturbances to their body clock
20 February 2024 – 1pm to 2pm – Part 1
27 February 2024 – 12pm to 1pm – Part 2 – Follow up