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Chris Evans Radio 2 DJIt was interesting to listen to the Chris Evans breakfast show on Radio 2 this morning as sleep guru Dr Guy Meadows joined him for a sleep school tour.

The Sleep School is based in London and is a one on one clinic. They also run workshops / retreats. Details can be found on their website.

We all need sleep and if you are having problems, Dr Guy’s advice is to keep a sleep diary because we all need different amounts of sleep. It’s a good tool to start with to assess how much sleep you are getting. If you need to go to a doctor with sleep issues it’s good to have a record of what’s going on.

Why do people need different amount sleep? This is very much a hereditary, genetic factor.

Over tiredness, causes sleep to become fractious, we become tired but wired. The more tired we are the more we struggle, the less we sleep, the more emotional we get. We end up stuck in a vicious circle and we need to learn how to exit it.

The clocks have gone forward an hour, which can cause sleep problems. We all have internal body clocks so when the time changes, that disrupts the body clock and disrupts the sleep pattern. The body clock is kept on time by the rise and fall of the sun so from 9pm you want to be telling your brain that you are heading for sleep.

A new survey shows the UK is generally lacking sleep. So what can we do to overcome the problem?

Simple things like keeping your room dark as possible. It’s your cave and should be dark, and quiet, comfortable, cool, smell right, uncluttered and feels right. But, don’t obsess about it. You don’t need a sound proofed room. Eye masks help to darken rooms and as long as they’re comfortable are fine to wear. Ear plugs are useful, but it’s not good to become reliant, as they can become an unhelpful prop.

Night time routine, you should start to fade away. Phones off, no TV, leave it all downstairs. Our Infographic How Technology Affects Sleep gives information about this.

If ask a normal sleeper what they do to sleep they say nothing but if you ask an insomniac they give you a list as long as their arm. That’s simply because as you get desperate for sleep you struggle and strive to get it and that keeps you awake more.

Dr Guy took questions from the audience which are summarised below and in the order they were asked on the radio show.

Why do we wake up at the same time every night? We sleep in cycles 1-1 ½ hour long, this comes from our evolutionary past. We taught ourselves to wake in short blocks to check for danger/animals so in a typical 8 hour night we wake up 4 times.

Are afternoon naps good for us? If you nap for too long you steal your drive to sleep for the night to come. A 20 minute power nap before 3pm can be really good for you.

Does counting backwards or counting sheep help? This depends on individuals, however distraction techniques can help.

Food and drink before you go to sleep. Leave a couple of hours between eating and sleeping.  Alcohol takes 1 hour to metabolise one unit of alcohol. Alcohol disturbs sleep by inhibiting our ability to get into rem sleep. It makes us hot and increases our heart rate. Having a gentle wind down is the recipe for the best sleep.

Worries, worried about exams, worried people. Worry is the big stealer of sleep. Being mindfulness helps to come into the present moment. For example think about the feel of the duvet touching your toes and learn to have a relaxed relationship with your worries, don’t fight them.

And of course, a comfortable bed is sure to help.

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