It’s been a tough week for Holly Fawcett. A key challenge is winding down to sleep.
It’s been a tough week for Holly Fawcett. “I haven’t had much sleep but I am sleeping later at least,” she says. “The problem with that of course is that I’m even busier during the day and I end up going to bed later again. I just hope my body is benefitting from the little bit extra.”
Even the weather has been working against her. “Thursday was horrific,” she says. “I was stranded in Cork because of the storm and had to catch the 5am train back to Dublin. I was working on the train, went straight into work and I had lectures in the evening. On Friday I was completely exhausted and I slept until 11. Then on Saturday I had a great sleep. I felt significantly better on Sunday for that.”
She is taking the advice on having a technology curfew. “My iPad is away charging in the kitchen and my phone is in the room but it’s out of reach.”
Nonetheless, between work and study, there isn’t a huge amount of space for adjustment of her routine and Fawcett is finding the recommendation that she eat earlier in the evening next to impossible to achieve. “There are just practical challenges to eating earlier,” she says. “But having dinner at 7.30 or 8.00 in the evening is late if I go to bed at 10 o’clock but I wouldn’t really consider going to bed that early.”
A key challenge for Fawcett is in winding down to sleep. Stress is a factor. This week, as well as working and going to lectures, she has two major assignments due for her marketing degree. “I have college tonight until 9.30 and then I have a presentation for work tomorrow morning. I am terrified that I’ll fall asleep and that I won’t be able to get up in the morning. That fear is already eating into my ability to wind down.”
After a couple of difficult weeks, things are beginning to turn. “I’ll need longer to get things right,” says Fawcett. “I’m only starting to learn about what interferes with and what helps my sleep. It’s definitely moving in the right direction.”
Dr John Faul is a respiratory physician and sleep specialist at the Hermitage Medical Clinic. During the Sleep Challenge he will be providing practical input on how people can improve their sleep.
Dr Faul comments: Early bed time seems an alien concept to most Irish people. Believe it or not, most people around the world get to sleep before midnight and in many societies 9 pm is the norm. Irish people in the 1960s slept for an average 9 hours each night. This is now down to 6 to 7 hours.
Be cautious with the alcohol. It's a poor hypnotic and can provoke many sleep disorders. Most patients with snoring or sleep apnoea report their sleep is significantly worse after alcohol. Indeed some patients only snore after drinking alcohol.
Falling asleep immediately when going to bed is a symptom of sleep deprivation. Normally it should take 20 minutes to fall asleep.
HOLLY FAWCETT’S SLEEP PATTERNS IN NUMBERS
Time to sleep 00:19 hrs
Sleep onset 22:44
Sleep duration 10:37 hrs
Unscored sections 00:16 hrs
Final awakening 11:03
Sleep efficiency 88 %
Your “Sleep Efficiency” provides a metric of how well you slept. This simply means working out the percentage of time spent in bed asleep each night. If you spend 8 hours in bed, but only 4 of those hours are spent asleep, then your sleep efficiency is very low at 50%. Sleep efficiency is based on the assumption that we go to bed in order to sleep. Most normal sleepers spend nearly all of their time in bed asleep, i.e. a sleep efficiency of 90-95% or more. People with insomnia generally have an average sleep efficiency of less than 85%.
This is the actual length of your sleep while in bed. Most healthy adults require 7-9 hours of sleep, with experts recommending 8 hours. Some people only require only 6 hours, but others may require 10 hours of quality sleep.
This is our estimate of when the person first feel asleep.
Normally, you should try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. For instance, if you stay up late on Friday, sleep late on Saturday, you are set up to sleep even later on Saturday night. This can give rise to Sunday night insomnia.
In practice, this means trying to get up at the same time every day, even after a late night party. It also suggests that “sleeping in” at the weekend to make up sleep debt from the week may not be completely be effective – especially if you encounter Sunday night insomnia.