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Getting Quality Sleep: Netflix’s ‘Headspace Guide to Sleep’

Dream Catcher sleep
Image by Anke Sundermeier from Pixabay

Roar writer Charmaine Tan reviews the new Netflix mini-series, “Headspace Guide to Sleep”, and discusses what it takes to get quality sleep.

We all know how important quality sleep is. Yet, when life gets busy, it’s one of the first things we forgo. During King’s exam period, a little more than half of the students surveyed reported sleeping about 7-9 hours per night – a good sign, considering the minimum 7 hours of sleep recommendation for university students. Within the Law department, the numbers were slightly lower, with most students sleeping about 3-6 hours a night.

With the summer holidays just around the corner, when would it be better to catch up on some Z’s than right now? Whether you have a solid 9 hours of sleep per night or are insomniac, Netflix’s “Headspace Guide to Sleep” will teach you how to get the best possible quality of sleep. Released in late April 2021, this animated documentary uses findings by sleep researchers to explain the science behind this concept. Each episode ends with a winding down meditation, led by Evelyn Lewis Prieto, intended to lull you into deep sleep.

Here are some of my main takeaways from the first season.

Did you know?

Lucid dreaming is a positive phenomenon. A lucid dream is one where the person asleep is aware of their dreaming. Often, a lucid dreamer has control of their dreams and wakes up able to recall its narrative. Though not extremely common – only 23% of people experience lucid dreams frequently – lucid dreamers are known to be more mindful, creative, and possess improved motor skills.

We have messed up sleep patterns thanks to Thomas Edison. Prior to the 1800s, our sleep patterns matched the sun’s. The blue light emitted by it used to be a natural alarm clock. But things changed with the invention of lightbulbs, which gave us the possibility of working through the night. Today, not only do we have house lights, we also have countless numbers of other blue light-emitting devices that encourage us to go against our natural sleep patterns.

Quantity does not equate to quality. Sleeping for long hours does not necessarily mean that it is good for you. On the one hand, sleeping more than 9 hours a night can cause heart diseases. On the other, 9 hours of sleep means nothing if it is of poor quality. Everyone has a unique body clock and different sleeping needs; for that reason, it is important to listen to your own body.

How to get a good night’s sleep

Regulate the way you use blue light-emitting devices. The reasons are twofold. First, the blue light emitted from screens affects our sleep cycle, reducing our Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and thereby affecting our memory. Secondly, we have developed very toxic relationships with these devices, which leads to disrupted sleep patterns. Many of us use our phones first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. Social media is a big reason for why teenagers go to bed so late. As for the working adults who check their emails before bedtime? They’re working. Their minds are active when they should really be winding down. In order to get a better night’s sleep, “Headspace Guide to Sleep” recommends listening to calming music, or even better, losing the habit of using these blue light-emitting devices before bed.

Set a regular wake-up time. We often hear that it is best to have a fixed sleep schedule, going to bed and rising at the same hour every day. However, the nuances of day-to-day life render that impossible; some days, we just don’t feel sleepy at all. This is completely normal, and we should not force ourselves to sleep if our body protests. To regulate your body clock (or reset it, if the exams have turned your sleep schedule upside down), Prieto advises sticking to regular wake-up times instead. This has a more significant impact on maintaining your circadian rhythm.

Incorporate meditation into your daily routine. In addition to inducing lucid dreams, meditation helps to relieve stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that although insomnia can be genetic, one of its most common causes is stress. Did you know that when you try to force yourself to sleep at night when you’re not tired, you’re actually making it more difficult to do so? You actually stress yourself out more and risk triggering the “fight-or-flight” response, making it impossible to fall asleep. By meditating and focusing on deep breathing, you become more present with yourself and susceptible to quality sleep. You can try an exercise called “noting” (Season 1, Episode 7) – this is where you label the thoughts and feelings that arise in your mind. It allows you to distance yourself from them, resulting in a restful state of mind. This can be done either before bedtime or in the middle of the night, if you find yourself awake and unable to return to sleep.

Some of this may be information that you already know, or perhaps not. Regardless, we can all benefit from being a bit more mindful of ourselves, especially after all the stress of the exam season. Sleep is essential to our lives. Like it or not, we spend one third of our lives sleeping (theoretically), so why not use it to our advantage and reap its benefits?

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