Specialist infrastructure provider blu-3 recently welcomed Dr Gabriella Romano of Sleep Unlimited to deliver a sleep essentials seminar to the workforce.
Staff wellness
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Specialist infrastructure provider blu-3 recently welcomed Dr Gabriella Romano of Sleep Psychologist to deliver her seminar called ‘Sleep: The Essentials’ to the workforce.

As part of the blu-3 commitment to promoting good health and staff wellness Dr Romano (a Clinical Psychologist with a specialist interest in behavioural sleep medicine), presented the open workshop to staff on the science of sleep. The event was also made available to all employees as a live webinar.

It has long been established that lack of sleep can have adverse effects on our day to day functions. During the talk, Dr Romano listed common symptoms associated with sleep deprivation, such as anxiety, diminished attention and concentration, as well as its impact on our relationships.

In the construction and built environment industry, which relies so heavily on safety, teamwork and good communication, it is vital that personnel have access to resources that promote best practice in sleep behaviour.

Dr Romano began the seminar by asking the attendees what they think is the optimal amount of time to be asleep. Several participants guessed at eight hours, but she continued by saying that the optimal amount is extremely variable, changing as we grow and develop; there isn’t a one-size-fits-all.

The session covered the architecture of sleep, which was demonstrated with a chart documenting brain activity highlighting the two main phases known as NON – Rapid Eye Movement (N-REM, the period of slow wave brain activity) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM, the more active phase).

The talk outlined several core concepts to help with maintaining both the quality and quantity of sleep, along with actionable, behavioural strategies and advice that can be put into practice immediately.

The first core tips covered were referred to as ‘Sleep Hygiene’. Dr Romano explained Sleep Hygiene as a number of small behaviour changes that can help day to day. For example:

  • Engaging in a minimum of 30 minutes exercise once a day (enough to become breathless). This can help with sleep quality.
  • Avoiding physical activity in the 2 hours leading up to your usual bed time. This will make you more alert.
  • Regulating bedroom temperature, 18 degrees Celsius is ideal. Your bedroom needs to be cool and relaxing.
  • Avoid ingesting caffeine products after 2pm. Caffeine has a 6-hour half-life in the human body and should be out of the system by 11pm.
  • Avoid heavy meals before bed time, otherwise the body needs to work a lot harder before sleep.

Dr Romano continued by saying that Sleep Hygiene alone cannot treat a more chronic sleep disorder, like insomnia, and that typically 80% of people with a diagnosis of insomnia benefit from a more rigid intervention which involves additional strategies.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi) is the evidence-based intervention recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). Dr Romano outlined some further CBTi based strategies, for people with a more long-term sleep disorder like insomnia.

For example:

  • The ‘15 Minute Rule’ based on Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning experiments with dogs. If you wake up at night and can’t get back to sleep within 15 minutes, leave the bedroom and come back when you feel sleepy. This strengthens the association between the bedroom and the cue for sleep.
  • ‘Anchoring Your Rise Time’, get up at the same time 7 days a week to re-set your biological clock. Get out of bed within 15 minutes of waking.
  • Create a ‘Buffer Zone’ which is a consistent 1-hour period before sleep that is dedicated to relaxation – to help with putting the day to bed
  • Listen to a ‘Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)’ audio recording – a sleep promoting relaxation exercise. Listen to this when you get into bed.
  • ‘Guarding your sleep fuel’ which means avoiding activities during the day that will use up your accumulated sleep fuel, such as ingesting caffeine and napping. However, she said some occupations, like long distance drivers require regular napping, so guidelines vary on personal life styles.

The session concluded with a Question & Answer session, open to the floor. Dr Romano summarised her session on ‘Sleep: The Essentials’ by stating “Sleep relies on you to give it the right opportunity. This includes creating an environment that allows it to exist and taking ownership. It’s up to you. However, sleep can be shy, try not to make it the centre of your attention, as this is exactly what makes you lose sleep – worrying about it!’

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