I’m a sleep expert – nap at lunchtime to improve your wellbeing

 

Sleep is increasingly being recognised as the cornerstone for health – and a lack of it has a major impact on our mental performance and wellbeing.

But 36 per cent of adults struggle to get enough at least once a week, and nearly one in five have trouble nodding off every night.

Conventional wisdom recommends about eight hours’ sleep a night but the average person will get little more than six and a half hours.

Just over a third of the population get by on only five to six hours a night and almost half report being kept awake by stress or worry — a situation made worse by the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

Scientists have even identified an added pressure in people who wear sleep trackers, when they wake up thinking they’ve had a bad night’s sleep and are playing catch up.

Now Nick Little-Hales, who has been hailed as the world’s first ever sleep coach, says daytime power naps are key to health.

These can help with recovery and rejuvenation, improve mood, memory and creativity, boost the immune system and reduce the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and depression.

Nick told Sun on Sunday Health: “Don’t think of daytime sleepers as lazy — if you don’t snooze, you’ll lose.

“Between 1pm and 3pm, and 5pm and 7pm, are times when many of us experience a slump. Rather than push on through, we should embrace a short nap or switch-off.

“It’s a game-changer for most people. It works for anyone — elite athletes, footballers, frontline workers, people on night shift, teenagers, children.

“It can be 10, 15 or 30 minutes and will raise alertness and awareness, as well as en­hance your performance.

“It can change your life and it doesn’t even have to be a proper closed-eye nap.

“You’re effectively napping with your eyes open in a room full of people. They have no idea what you are doing.

“You can use your headphones at your desk to listen to a meditation app or something to help you switch off for a minute or two during your lunch break.

“If you are at home, it could be sitting in the garden, on a bench, in another chair, listening to music, whatever it might be to develop that little bit of space to rebalance.

“In other parts of the world, they have a siesta. In sport, they call it controlled recovery periods (CRP), not naps.

“It does not matter if you don’t actually enter a sleep state. What is important is that you use this period to disconnect from your world for  a while.

“Sleep is not just about physical sleep, it is about giving the mind the opportunity to recover — throughout a 24-hour process.

“Find a few minutes, whether it’s on your journey home on the train or the bus, or before you leave work or even in your home office — wherever it might be.

“We all think we haven’t got time to create 30 minutes for ourselves but we always worry how difficult it is to find sleep and we try to find solutions to it.

Don’t think of daytime sleepers as lazy — if you don’t snooze, you’ll lose. Between 1pm and 3pm, and 5pm and 7pm, are times when many of us experience a slump. Rather than push on through, we should embrace a short nap or switch-off.

“Recovery is at the heart of all human performance. It’s not about doing nothing, it’s about stopping wasting valuable time trying to sleep without benefits.

“If you don’t, your brain will try to sleep when you don’t want it to.”

In the UK, a quarter of accidents on major roads are sleep-related.

The University of Düsseldorf found even short sleeps enhance memory processing, while a Nasa   study found naps for pilots on long flights can “maintain or improve subsequent performance, their physiological and subjective alertness, and mood.”

In men, sleep disruption can result in lower testosterone, a dulled libido and reduced productivity, while in women it can also affect ability to reproduce.

Nick, author of bestselling book Sleep, published by Penguin, has worked with Manchester United to set up the world’s first training ground sleep recovery room, where up to 12 players can lie on loungers and switch off.

Since then the England team, Manchester City, Arsenal and Real Madrid have benefited from his expertise, as well as Olympic gold medallists.

He said: “Sleep is 30 per cent of our day but it’s stuck at the end of other health pillars like nutrition and exercise.

“But if you make it the first health pillar and change your perception of it to think of sleep as natural recovery, it makes you more productive, makes you go faster, makes you smile more.”

ASK DR JEFF

HE has saved hundreds of lives working in A&E and as a GP and now Dr Jeff Foster has become The Sun on Sunday’s new resident doctor and is here to help YOU.

Dr Jeff, 43, splits his time between working as a GP near his home in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and running his clinic, H3 Health, which is the first of its kind in the UK to look at hormonal issues for both men and women.

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