What is a good night’s sleep? Like a good meal: it depends…

What do you consider to be a good night’s sleep?

Daria shevtsova

Daria Shevtsova

What if a good night’s sleep for you were to fall asleep easily and remain in Morpheus’ arms until the gentle sound of your alarm-clock goes off? Or rather dream vividly and when you wake up get the answer to the question that has been gnawing at you for such a long time, in the easiest possible way? Or even wake up in the early morning, realise with pleasure that you still have the freedom of lying in bed, and put yourself in snooze mode for another few hours? To this easy-looking question, there are a multitude of possible answers. Answers that might be as diverse and different to the following one: for you, what is a good meal? I suggest we apply the analogy of a good night’s sleep to a good meal. Let’s consider for a moment the experience of a nice dinner. Surely, elements such as the quantity and quality of food contribute to feeling satisfied. If some of you enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet, others focus more on the quality of the products. The sleep quantity (number of hours of sleep per night) as well as its quality also contribute to feeling satisfied by a good night’s sleep. But that is not everything. To enjoy a nice dinner, the presentation of the dish, the price or even the atmosphere are other elements to take into consideration. If some of you are looking for a restaurant dinner, others would prefer a home-cooked meal… In the same way, our sleeping environment contributes to good sleep quality. Finally, feeling satisfied by a night’s sleep cannot be reduced to the quantity and quality of your sleep. A good night’s sleep is the sum of multiple components: 1) its subjective quality; 2) sleep onset latency or the time required to fall asleep; 3) how long it lasts; 4) the efficiency of your sleep; 5) possible disruptions during the night; 6) possible medication intake; 7) difficulties encountered during wake time. Thanks to this questionnaire, you will be able to seriously assess your sleep and understand where you’re at. And then follow up on your progress, month after month. Defining a good night’s sleep is pretty complex, and the retained definition varies from person to person. These seven components are measured by a questionnaire called the “Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index” or PSQI which evaluates your sleeping patterns throughout the last month. In the meantime, for those of you who wish to control their sleep, a multitude of solutions and strategies exist which can help improve the quality of your sleep. And to stretch the analogy, the need or the act of napping does not say much about your overall satisfaction in relation to your nocturnal sleep, just as snacking after a meal does not necessarily mean that you did not enjoy it!                        

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.

Napping: sleepiness or sleepability?

What about you, are you a napping enthusiast?

Mateusz dach

Mateusz Dach

We are progressively coming out of lockdown. This unprecedented period will have upset a good deal of our habits. Let’s take the example of Axel, a young executive who found himself working from home overnight. But can we truly speak of remote working to qualify a similar work load which needs to be done in a productive and efficient time which is very condensed and requires to be carried out during two toddlers’ napping time? Indeed, Axel hasn’t had the time to nap since the beginning of the lockdown. Just after a mentally-exhausting morning, followed by a very quick lunch, the start of the kids’ napping time kicks off a period of work which he hopes to be as productive as possible. We can identify three types of naps, depending on the objective: preventing or prevailing against the diurnal sleepiness? Have you ever experienced that feeling of drowsiness that you usually come at the beginning of the afternoon and which can be a symptom of sleep debt?

A preventive nap is taken in anticipation of a future sleep restriction;

A compensatory nap is taken after a sleep restriction;

The “appetitive” nap is taken for comfort or pleasure. A study even showed that an “appetitive” nap, with an immediate sleep initiation, was associated to better nocturnal sleep quality, and was not linked to diurnal sleepiness. So, napping: sleepiness or sleepability? Another study which was carried out among elite athletes showed that they went to sleep faster compared to active subjects. This was the case for the first - which fits the challenge of sleeping in a new sleeping environment - and the second nap of the study. These results remained valid in mathematical models which controlled sleepiness and the amount of sleep gathered prior to the experiment. In other terms, the ability to fall asleep at one’s pleasure could be linked to a certain training, and not only to previous sleep restriction-induced pressure. As children are gradually allowed back at the nursery, Alex will make the most of this afternoon to give the “appetitive” nap a shot! Contrary to pre-conceived ideas, this could even help him enjoy a better night’s sleep tonight!                 

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.

Your sleep can protect you against the virus!

What about you, how many hours of sleep have you got over the past couple of weeks?

Andrea piacquadio

Andrea Piacquadio

During this period of intense spreading and frequent transmission of the coronavirus Covid-19, you might be looking to put all the assets on your side to protect yourself from it. France’s Prime Minister, Mr Philippe, recently asked French people to “only leave the house for essential purchases, to exercise or to vote”. Regular physical activity boosts your immunity: a first asset! These new measures add to the “barrier gestures” which are now widespread: regularly washing your hands, coughing or sneezing into your elbow or into a handkerchief, using a single-use handkerchief, greeting each other without handshakes and avoiding hugs. Common hygienic gestures which are often recalled throughout an elite athlete’s season. They limit the risk of getting sick and allow the athlete to train better and more effectively than his opponents, for a final difference of 10 to 20 additional high-intensity training days per season. This is meaningful, and it may have an impact on whether being just a finalist or winning gold at the Olympic games.

But in preventing the coronavirus, sleep has not yet been mentioned. However, it does effectively boost your immune system in an acute and chronic way! A scientific study has indeed shown that people having slept less than 7 hours per night on average two weeks preceding exposition to a virus are three-times more likely to get infected than those having slept 8 hours or more. Remember the famous 7-hour threshold I mentioned in a previous post. Just one night of curtailed sleep can even make a difference. It has been shown that going to bed late (3:00 am), leading to a shorter night’s sleep induces an increased inflammatory response in the morning, as opposed to a complete night’s sleep. In other words, your sleep continuously participates in elaborating a real barrier against an actively-circulating virus. In order to have all the assets on your side, I urge you to consider the following three-part advice: physical activity, sleep, and nutrition which will be the subject of a following post. Here are some golden rules to pave the way to a virtuous circle of good habits…               

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.

A clever approach to screens will preserve your sleep!

What about your relationship to screens?

Fauxels 3

Fauxels 3

An ordinary and hyperconnected work meeting. Different protagonists each set up their computers, smartphones and tablets. The meeting will last one hour and half during which a number of them will hastily check each of their devices… Young adults are obviously also concerned. According to a recent survey, 90% of them browse on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) during the two hours leading up to bedtime, and 59% of them have their phones on in the bedroom during the night. Whoever says phone on says nighttime texting with a night-owl friend and fostering of the “connected night-owl club”! In addition to the detrimental effect of an excessive use of new tech throughout the day on sleep (Thomée et al., 2007), exposing oneself to screens before going to bed is also counter-productive. Such an exposure will increase our level of vigilance, partly due to a blue-light induced reduction in melatonin secretion, and the engaging and stimulating content of this media. According to Arora et al. (2014), complex cognitive processes (decision-making, problem solving, memorisation) happen when using these forms of media. This might lead to a difficulty to switch off the brain and let go when initiating sleep. You have to know that unhealthy consequences will depend on the chosen format. Thus, obsessively checking and posting comments on Facebook before going to bed will result on average in one hour less of sleep per night! Watching TV before bedtime will result in twenty minutes less of sleep whereas listening to music will make it hard to fall asleep (Arora et al., 2014). Finally, unlimited access to artificial light and the possibility of creating permanent artificially-lit environments are crucial factors in the reduction of sleep quantity among industrialised societies. According to philosopher Michel Serres, with the birth of new technologies, a new kind of human was born: he calls him “Little Thumb”, referring to the maestria he has to send texts with his thumbs. His theory invites us to reconcile modern and old. It seems difficult today to advocate in favour of the suppression of new technologies, which are everywhere, along with permanent digital logout in order to preserve sleep. A clever use of new technologies is still possible. It is a question of taking back control over our relationship with technology.                               

Use with caution! James Williams, a former Google employee, who quit to become a philosopher said: “On the short term, technology distracts us from tasks we have to do. On the long term, it may distract us from the life we want to lead… Technology favours our impetus and not our intentions”.

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.