How important is sleep to you?

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You’ll find lots of science on sleep and the impact it has on a range of physical and mental performance parameters. But how, in reality, does sleep influence the performance of you, our readers and customers?

Here’s what you shared with us:

Sophie Radcliffe, Athlete, Adventurer

Sleep massively affects my performance as an athlete and in my work. I feel cloudy, irritable and am unable to focus without the right amount of sleep and rest. “How much is enough” varies depending on my training and current work load. Sometimes my ideas wake me and although I feel like more sleep would be good, I know once my brain has pinged and is engaged then there’s no going back! My top tip is to listen to your body, it tells us what we need to hear but we get very good at ignoring the signs sometimes!

Isaac Hayden, Newcastle United footballer

Sleep is extremely important for me as an athlete. Before a game on the weekend I always try and aim for around 10-11 hours of sleep so that I give myself the best opportunity to feel as fresh as possible. This is important for my mental state as well as my physical state. As an athlete I like to be structured during the week. I’ll aim to get into a regular sleeping pattern which consists of 9 hrs + of sleep each night. I see this as a building block whereby I can build up a good bank of sleep so that I am ready for a game on the weekend.

Emma Wiggs, Rio 2016 Paralympic Gold Medalist, Kayaking

Sleep is absolutely crucial for me. Get enough and I can choose a better mindset & attack training with more energy; have a few nights of inadequate sleep and I’m grumpy, more susceptible to emotional reactions & generally less positive. I’ve seen the real impact of more sleep physically in the gym….more muscle girth gains, increase max strength & power! I find at least 9 hours suits me. I always have a bedtime snack and if I’ve used my performance log effectively to review the day I can fall asleep with no worrying.

Joanna Masterman, Institute of Directors

Sleep is really important to me. If I don’t get enough sleep, I have trouble concentrating, and I’ll slump much more quickly in the day. More than one bad sleep and the problem compounds and it’s hard to get back on track. I’ve learned that I need to be in bed early to get a good quality nights sleep, and that food, hydration and alcohol also affects my sleep. Compartmentalizing work – a routine to switch off in the evening, and back on in the morning is also very helpful for me.

Ben Andrews, AXA Insurance

Sleep has an affect on me mentally and physically. If I lack sleep, I’m less disciplined, lose focus, and tend to drop the ‘smaller things’ that I am doing to help with my performance. 7-8 hours average is about right for me, unless my work/ workout activity increases, in which case I need more. I have to make sleep a goal for my day. Some people want to do 10000 steps per day. I focus on going to sleep! It takes quite a lot of discipline for me. Use of screens isn’t good for me before bed, so I try and avoid them. Also I try and stretch before bed, which is now sort of the routine/ warm up for a night’s sleep.

Grace Culley, RSA insurance

Sleep is an integral part of your day-to-day function. Not enough sleep impacts everyone differently. For me, lack of sleep can affect my performance throughout the day but can also impact how I think throughout the day. I tend to have more peaks and lows throughout the day if my sleep has been affected. My ideal sleep would be 8 hours a night, but this can change depending on what activities I’ve got to do. I try and set regular “bedtime” and where possible keep this consistent. We do this with children to get them into a routine so it should be no different when we are adults.

Mark Homer, Head of Sport Science and Medicine, GB Rowing Team

Alongside nutrition, good sleep is a core requirement for good recovery from racing and training and can have a significant effect when compared to the ‘marginal gains’ offered by (eg) compression and cold water immersion.

Sleep (both night-time and daytime napping) is when the bulk of post-exercise adaptation occurs and insufficient sleep can be a primary cause of short and long-term under recovery.

Chris Voller, Claims Director, Axa Insurance

People don’t take sleep seriously enough – there’s a kind of “despite the lack of sleep I got through the day & did some stuff” attitude. That’s a long way from performing at optimum during the day. My only other thought is that I think there is an element of machismo in being able to come to work (notice I didn’t say perform well!) with not much sleep. I try to get 7 hours average, and use some simple principles like making sure I’m properly switched off from work (have a routine with deadlines to finish work at a certain time).

Louise Routledge, MSG Group

When I am getting lots of sleep, I am more alert, can think and process things quicker, I have a more positive attitude to everything and feel energized. The reverse is true when I’m not getting enough – I’m slower in processing/analysing information, less creative, more impatient and more pessimistic. Ideally I aim for 8 or 8.5 hours per night and have a curfew for myself for being in bed. I also use holidays and weekends to catch up with sleep and make sure I’m topped up and ready to go!

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