Sleep, Go To Bed
Find yourself having to lean on caffeine just to get through the day? Struggling to find the energy or motivation to do anything on your days off? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Like most that work in, or with, the drinks industry on both sides of the bar, you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, a blight on modern society what pitches sleep as the enemy of productivity and a waste of time that you should be spent doing something more useful, like making money or watching YouTube videos of vloggers taking things out of a box.
Sleeping is one of the core biological functions common to all animal life on earth, as essential to our survival as breathing and eating. The old adage, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ can come painfully true as it is indeed possible to die from a lack of sleep in rare cases of extreme insomnia for which there is no known cure.
Our industry has a terrible relationship with sleep. We wear tiredness like a perverse badge of honour, boasting of how little sleep we get between shifts like it’s some sort of competition to prove dedication to the cause.
A growing number of scientists think that sleep deprivation may be the world’s leading cause of death. In his ground-breaking book ‘Why we sleep’, one of the world’s leading experts on sleep; Matthew Walker highlights the effects of not getting enough. A lack of shut eye can lead to an inability to create new memories, an increase in risk of a fatal heart attack, decreased fertility rates and testosterone levels, erectile dysfunction, mental health illness and weight gain.
As an industry, we’re never going to have perfect sleep patterns. Our nocturnal lifestyles mean we’re operating against the will of our circadian rhythms, the 24hr internal body clock, and we’re going to struggle trying to rest whilst the rest of the world is awake. We can however make a conscious effort to improve the quantity and quality of the sleep that we do get.
The first step to improving your sleep habits is to prioritise sleep. As one of our core biological requirements, it’s more important than watching cats on YouTube, mindlessly scrolling Facebook or binging the latest season.
What we do in the 90 minutes before sleep has a huge impact on our shut eye. 9-5er’s don’t get straight to bed then they get home from work, and neither should you. Instead spend some time preparing your body and mind for a period of good, restful sleep. Disconnect from the digital world, replicate the night outside and avoid artificial light where possible, if you need light, use candles. Try and declutter the mind through meditation, a gratitude diary or perhaps writing tomorrows to do list and do some manual tasks that require little thought such as the washing up or laundry. And if you often struggle to fall asleep try taking a hot shower as a drop in temperature is one of the signifiers that it’s time to go to sleep.
There is nothing that you own that you spend more time than your bed. Investing in the right mattress, pillows and bedding is one of the best investments you can make in your health. Do your research, find the right combination that works for you and remember that more expensive doesn’t mean better. If you can’t afford a new mattress, look into getting a mattress topper which can give a tired old mattress a new lease of life.
As a species we’ve spent the vast majority of our existence living outside in the natural world, only moving into small concrete boxes in the last few centuries of our history. Our bodies have yet to adapt to this new artificially managed environment. Replicating a natural cave like environment in your bedroom will aid the quality of your sleep. The rule here is cool, dark and quiet, not damp, dirty and slightly creepy. Our hearing is still extremely active whilst we sleep, a survival mechanism to protect us from predators, so if you live in a city then keep the windows shut and try a pair of earplugs or a white noise machine if you live in a particularly noisy area. Thick dark curtains to keep the light at bay and replicate the night in your room are a must and keep the temperature cool, ideally between 16.5C and 19.5C.
Finally, remember that your bedroom is for 2 things, and 2things only: sleeping and sex. There is no place for your phone, laptop or any other electronics when you’re trying to sleep. If you’re looking to improve your sleep, the simplest and cheapest first step you can make is to leave your phone out of your bedroom. Try it for a week and see what happens. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Improving your sleep is one of the most powerful forms of medicine we have and the easiest way to improve your mental and physical health, quality of life, hospitality and longevity. So now that you’ve finished this article, close the magazine and go nap.