The Big Sleep

It’s time to wake up and realise you need more sleep

March is National Bed Month, a time for a lie-in before learning about the importance of a good night’s sleep! Organised by the Sleep Council, the month aims to remind us all of why a sound sleep is good for our health.

It also sees World Sleep Day (19 March), an annual event intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, social aspects and driving.

Just in case you’re wondering why anyone needs to be encouraged to have a sleep, official UK data reveals:

• 25 per cent of people suffer with sleep issues

• 20 per cent of schoolchildren are not getting enough sleep

• 40 per cent of road deaths are related to fatigue

• £42billion is the cost to the UK economy caused by sleep deprivation


Getting enough sleep is essential for helping a person maintain optimal health and well-being. When it comes to their health, sleep is as vital as regular exercise and eating a balanced diet.

1. Better productivity and concentration

There were several studies that scientists did in the early 2000s which concluded that sleep has links to several brain functions, including concentration, productivity and cognition and children’s sleep patterns can have a direct impact on their behaviour and academic performance.

2. Lower weight gain risk

The link between weight gain and obesity and short sleep patterns is not completely clear but a lack of sleep may affect a person’s desire or ability to maintain a healthful lifestyle and as such may be a direct contributor to weight gain.

3. Better calorie regulation

Similarly to gaining weight, there is evidence to suggest that getting a good night’s sleep can help a person consume fewer calories during the day. When a person does not sleep long enough, it can interfere with their body’s ability to regulate food intake correctly.

4. Greater athletic performance

Getting a sufficient amount of sleep can boost a person’s athletic performance. Other benefits include better performance intensity, more energy, better coordination and faster speed.

5. Lower risk of heart disease

One risk factor for heart disease is high blood pressure and research suggests getting adequate rest each night allows the body’s blood pressure to regulate itself. Doing so can reduce the chances of sleep-related conditions such as apnea (irregular breathing) and promote better overall heart health.

6. Preventing depression

The association between sleep and mental health has been the subject of research for a long time. One conclusion is that there is a link between lack of sleep and depression. A recent study examines patterns of death by suicide over 10 years. It concludes that lack of sleep is a contributing factor to many of these deaths.

7. Stronger immune system

Sleep helps the body repair, regenerate, and recover. The immune system is no exception to this relationship. Some research shows how better sleep quality can help the body fight off infection.


The average adult should be aiming for a minimum of seven hours sleep. Here are some tips for a better night’s kip:

Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule: Keeping regular hours helps the body’s sleep system stay in harmony and promotes feelings of sleepiness and drowsiness when your body is ready for sleep. Therefore, where possible, wake up at the same time each morning and go to bed at the same time every night.

Get out into natural light as soon as is practical in the morning, preferably around the same time every day: Natural light helps reset our internal body clock and makes us more alert.

Engage in daytime exercise: Exercise promotes the quantity and quality of your sleep, making it deeper and more refreshing. Be sure to leave two hours between any exercise and bedtime though.

Avoid stimulants that contain caffeine eight hours before bedtime: Although there are significant individual differences in how caffeine affects each of us, give yourself enough time between your last caffeine intake and your sleep time to make sure that it does not interfere with your ability to doze off.

Don’t go to bed full, hungry or thirsty: Eating at regular times helps strengthen our internal body clock. However, eating a heavy meal before bedtime can make it challenging to sleep at night. Drinking lots of liquid before bed will also increase the chances that we have to go to the bathroom during the night. Conversely, being hungry or thirsty at night can increase the chances of waking up.

Reduce electronic use before bedtime and avoid electronic use in the bedroom: Using electronics just before bed and in the bedroom can keep us awake for longer.

Don’t use alcohol to sleep: Although alcohol is a sedative, it can have a significant impact on the quality and quantity of your sleep.

Avoid nicotine before bed: Nicotine is a short-acting stimulant that can keep you awake.

Ensure the bedroom is cool, dark and quiet before bed: Heat, light and noise can impact on our ability to get off to sleep.

More advice available from the Sleep Council at