Want to learn more about your sleep, but not sure where to start? These tips from Silentnight’s sleep expert Hannah Shore will set you on the right track.
Getting enough good quality sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining good health and wellbeing. Eating well, taking part in regular exercise and managing your stress levels will all make a difference, but the restorative benefits that a good night’s sleep can offer cannot be beaten.
But what actually makes a ‘good night’s sleep’? Despite growing interest in the benefits of sleep, rest and relaxation, many of us know very little about the science of sleep: how it works, why its so beneficial and what affects its quality.
So, when Silentnight’s sleep expert Hannah Shore took to the stage at Stylist’s Restival last weekend (26 February) for a Q&A with Stylist editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski, we were intrigued to learn more. From the importance of quality over quantity to what actually defines a ‘good night’s sleep’, here’s three of the most fascinating things we learned.
1. ‘Catching up’ on sleep is more complex than you think
Ever planned on having a lie-in after a big night out to ‘make up’ for the sleep you lost the night before? It may not be as simple as that.
According to Shore, it can take much longer for women to recover from a poor night’s sleep than men, and even then, it may not possible to get back all the sleep you’ve lost from a night that’s been cut short.
“For females, it takes normally about four nights of good quality sleep to recover from one night of poor sleep, but males bounce back quickly – after a night or so,” Shore said. “So, females take ever so slightly longer to bounce back.”
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She continued: “If you sleep badly in the week, you can probably catch up on about an hour or so, maybe two. But if you have a night where you’ve only got about four hours sleep, then it’s kind of gone – you’ve missed the moment to sleep, I’m sorry to tell you.”
However, Shore stressed, it’s important not to worry too much about this missed sleep. “It’s one of those things where we need to be like, OK, I’ve had a bad night’s sleep, but I’m not going to worry about it, because we know the next night’s sleep is going to be great,” she added.
“It’s about making sure we’re not driving that sleep anxiety by being like, ‘I’ve had a rubbish night’s sleep, so now I need to have a good night’s sleep.’”
2. Quality is more important than quantity
Much of the conversation surrounding sleep tends to be focused on how many hours’ sleep we’re all getting – but that’s not necessarily important.
Indeed, as Shore told the Restival audience, it’s actually the quality of our sleep that we should be focusing on to make sure we’re giving our bodies the rest they need.
“With quantity, it would be great if we could throw it out the window a little bit,” she said. “We all love to measure sleep, so we all want that magic stamp that says ‘I’ve had that magic eight hours sleep, and therefore I feel wonderful’.
“But some people don’t need eight hours – some people have seven hours and they’ll be absolutely fine, and some people need more, like nine hours, and that’s perfectly fine. It goes back to the quality of sleep we’re getting.”
Of course, measuring the quality of your sleep isn’t as easy as measuring its quantity – especially if you don’t have a sleep tracking device (such as a watch) or simply don’t want to measure your sleep in such granular detail.
However, while Shore explained that, technically, sleep quality is determined by whether we spend enough time in each of the different sleep stages, we needn’t be too worried about that. Instead, you can use a simpler measure.
“If you’re happy you’re sleeping well, and if you’re waking up the next day feeling refreshed and happy, then congratulations, you’ve had a good night’s sleep,” Shore said.
“And if not, you probably need to pay a little bit more attention to your sleep – not too much, but maybe prioritise it a little bit more, give yourself a little bit more time to allow yourself to sleep and wind down. And hopefully, just by prioritising it a little bit more, we should all start to feel the benefits of it.”
3. Women’s sleep is different to men’s
Have you ever wondered why the men in your life tend to struggle with their sleep less than the women? There’s an actual, scientific reason – and it’s all to do with the menstrual cycle.
That’s because, Shore explained, our menstrual cycle causes our body’s core temperature to fluctuate, a measure which happens to play a key factor in our sleep, too.
“From puberty, men and women start to sleep differently, and women’s sleep becomes slightly lower quality, and it’s all linked to the menstrual cycle and core body temperature,” Shore explained.
“And that’s why for a few weeks of the month our sleep will be absolutely fine, but we will always have different parts of the menstrual cycle when we’ll sleep really poorly and have poor sleep quality [as the body temperature fluctuates]. And it affects the different types of sleep we’re getting throughout the night.”
Images: Bronac McNeill
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