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Are you ‘drink-driving’ through life?

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

The vast majority of us don’t do it.  Most people judge those who do – silently or vocally, culturally and criminally.

Yet, 1 in 3 of us operate our lives (and sometimes our cars) under the same conditions as a drunk driver, because that’s the number of people it’s estimated are sleep deprived.

Scientific research tells us that after being awake for 18 hours or more, an individual’s performance equals that of someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.1% (the benchmark for drunk driving in many countries).  Some studies say that losing 2 hours of sleep is equivalent to having 3 beers.  The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates fatigue-related crashes that result in injury or death cost $109 billion annually, not including property damage.  Sleep deprivation was a factor in the Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Exxon Valdez disasters, among others.

Smaller disasters occur in our own lives when we are chronically tired, including irritability, depression, negative thought patterns, hyper-sensitivity, catastrophising, and significant harm to our cardiovascular, metabolic, immune and reproductive systems.

Yet, we don’t usually prioritise sleep or view it positively.  We ‘swap’ sleep for more TV time.  We lament that we are forced to stop and sleep rather than get things done.

If this sounds familiar, I invite you over the next 3 days (today, tomorrow and Monday) to view sleep differently.  Prioritise it, schedule it, honour it and really appreciate the restorative benefits of it.

Make some tiny changes in habits that will lead to better sleep quality over time, which include:

> Reduce caffeine intake to less per day and earlier in the day.

> Cut or reduce smoking.

> Drink plenty of water during the day to hydrate, then reduce intake near bed-time.

> Wind down properly for 1-2 hours before bedtime, i.e. less technology, dim lights, reading, music.

> Establish a regular bed-time.  Setting an alarm on your phone is a good way to get that habit started.

> Change your bed-sheets at least once a week.  Air the mattress, pillows and duvet.

> Refresh your bedroom with open windows during the day, and open curtains whenever the sun is shining (sunlight kills germs on your bedclothes)

> Ensure your bedroom is quiet and dark.

> Go to bed earlier – we have better sleep quality from 10pm to 6am than 12midnight to 8am.

> Get fresh air and gentle exercise during the day.

> Avoid late-night takeaways or heavy meals – they stimulate our digestive system which needs to rest at night.

> Scribble down your worries or to-do-list before going to bed.  This reduces the chances of frequent waking, tossing and turning, and nightmares.

> Meditation or soothing music can help you relax before sleep.

> If you can’t fall sleep, get up and try again in 30 minutes.

> If you still can’t sleep, turn your pillow to the end of the bed and switch yourself around. (Try it, it works for shift workers!).

You don’t have to implement all of these at once!  Just pick one or two that are do-able and see how you go before trying another one.

Until next week, stay safe and sleep well!


Image credit: Gabe Pierce via


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