Science still isn't really sure why we need sleep, but we definitely do need it- without it we become tired, grumpy, irritable, forgetful, a bit dopey and significantly less beautiful. A giraffe sleeps on average only 1.9 hrs per day, but as humans we need somewhere between 5 and 11 hrs sleep.
The current world record for the longest period without sleep is 11 days, set by Randy Gardner in 1965. Four days into the research, he began hallucinating. This was followed by a delusion where he thought he was a famous footballer. Surprisingly, Randy was actually functioning quite well at the end of the 11 days and he could still beat the scientists in charge of the experiement at pinball.
Tips for good sleep:
- Get comfortable - open the window, shut the window, adjust the radiator, get a convection heater from the Linen Roon (N Staircase), tidy up, turn off your computer, turn off a light, turn on a light, stop the tap dripping, move your pillows - make your room somewhere you are able to sleep
- Regular exercise is a great way to improve your sleep pattern. Don't do it too close to bed time as exercise produces stimulants that stop the brain from relaxing quickly, and it's an excellent way to wake up your body in the morning.
- Eating carbohydates (eg toast) in the evening before bed increases the amount of serotonin in your brain, making you feel more relaxed. Foods containing tyramine which stimulates the brain (for example bacon, cheese, ham, aubergines, pepperoni, raspberries avocado, nuts, soy sauce, red wine) might keep you awake at night. Also avoid sources of caffeine such as coffee, chocolate, cola drinks and non-herbal teas.
- Too much alcohol can make you restless, and it is also a diuretic, increasing the number of midnight toilet trips. Drinking is also more likely to lead to snoring, which can restrict airflow into the lungs, reducing oxygen in your blood, disturbing your sleep and contributing to your hangover.
- Don't be afraid to ask your neighbours to turn their music down or chat somewhere other than directly outside your room. Or invest in a pair of earplugs!
- If you still find yourself tossing and turning, find something enjoyable and absorbing to do, maybe a jigsaw or reading a book until you begin to feel sleepy again.
Most people have a natural dip in alertness between 2 - 4pm, especially after a large lunch. A 15 minute nap when you're tired can be a very effective way of staying alert throughout the day. Avoid napping for longer than 20 minutes, after which you will enter deep sleep and feel even worse when you wake up.
See a doctor
If you continue to have trouble falling asleep night after night, it might be time to seek more advice from your doctor. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.