Sleep is more than just downtime

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bal du moulin de la Galette, 1876

If we didn’t really know how vital sleep is for our good health and wellbeing before the digital revolution, we certainly do now.

It’s time to start fighting back. Neuroscientist Matthew Walker’s astonishing book Why We Sleep (listed in the Punkt. Library) lists how sleep-deprivation is a key factor in an array of life-threatening diseases.

It is permanent in its negative effects. And over the last 75 years the number of people in ‘developed’ countries suffering from harmful levels of sleep deprivation has climbed from 8% to 50%.

The problem is a combination of quantity and quality — the latter is relatively easy to fix. Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution describes how we can start to take sleep seriously, including not using your phone as an alarm clock, and taking steps to make your bedroom a special place.

It is also worth remembering that a good night’s sleep boosts your immune system and helps keep you healthy (both physically and mentally). Astronaut, Scott Kelly, mentions in his tips for isolation points out that sleep is fundamental for getting though a mission in space, or a quarantine, because it impacts cognition, mood and interpersonal relations.

How to sleep better checklist.

1) Accept that sleep is important. It’s when you get a lot of stuff done.

2) Do what you can to get more of it, at a regular time.

3) Make sure your bedroom is an appealing place. Keep it tidy (reports show that sleeping surrounded by clutter means you get less done the next day) and add some beauty.

4) Get in the habit of having a digital sunset: no gadgets for an hour or so before bedtime. Both the screens themselves and the addictive material they deliver will follow you into your dreams.

5) Use a real alarm clock, that doesn’t light up unless you want it to. Don’t use a phone — it’ll be lurking there all night, ready to pounce in the morning.

6) And perhaps read a book before sleeping. The science is strong: reading a (real) book at bedtime can bring a marked improvement to quality of sleep. But choose carefully: Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor of psychology and author of Stumbling on Happiness, has described Matthew Walker’s book as “a canny pleasure that will have you turning pages well past your bedtime”…

Add your comments below to let us know what your sleep tips are.

This story was previously published on www.punkt.ch

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