Sleep appears to have some key physiological and psychological purposes.
Lack of sleep is also likely to result in you performing at a significantly reduced level because of poor quality, shortened sleep cycles. Whilst occasional bouts of bad sleep are part of a busy working life, we should all take steps to prevent this becoming the norm.
Primarily, sleep allows our bodies and minds recovery time. It also strengthens neural connections in the brain that form memories and process thinking.
Conversely, connections that no longer serve a purpose for us are pruned. Increasing evidence suggests that the brain also clears itself of protein and lipid waste when we sleep and this may indicate that sleep protects us from early cognitive decline (such as dementia related conditions).
Enhancing our health, wellbeing and performance through good quality sleep can be achieved through a number of practical steps.
Stop smoking – smokers can take up to twice as long to fall asleep as non-smokers. This is quickly remedied after giving up smoking. A Pennsylvania State University study showed that the time taken to fall asleep was reduced by a third within only 2 days of giving up smoking.
Pre-sleep stretch / yoga – avoid cardiovascular exercise for up to 3hrs before bed.
No TV or smart devices in the bedroom – avoid using devices for at least 30mins before bed as the light from these devices interrupts the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol – avoid after midday. Although Alcohol promotes GABA (a neurotransmitter involved in managing stress and anxiety), it only achieves this for a very short period before it then starts depleting, causing sleep problems, anxiety and nervousness.
Nutrients – eat foods rich in tryptophan which converts to serotonin, the raw material for the sleep hormone melatonin. Oatcakes with tuna, chicken or turkey. Banana protein smoothie. Sunflower seeds or almonds or a small pot of natural yogurt with sunflower seeds and a banana.
Regular routine – quiet, dark bedroom at cool temperature, take a warm bath.
Dealing with ruminating thoughts – find a method that works for you. This may be a talking therapy, a meditation podcast or writing out your worries on paper.
“Work Life balance is a constant wellbeing issue. A full day in court followed by prep on documents means working very late (1.30am twice this week) and forsaking family life. Last week I was suffering from severe sleep deprivation with no opportunity to do anything but work. This seems characteristic of life at the Bar and is leading to chronic stress which needs to be watched.”
Barrister, 20+ years of call
The information and resource packs on this website are designed to help you and your colleagues to work as a community for better wellbeing and professional resilience. If you want to provide feedback on these resources, or to get involved in promoting wellbeing please get in touch.
It can be difficult to make a living from law and it can be pressurised and demanding. Competition and an adversarial approach to everything can make collegiate relationships difficult. This website aims to provide you with the knowledge to manage these stressors, make emotionally informed, wise professional decisions and thrive in your chosen profession.
A simple expression that sums up wellbeing is ‘travelling well’
2 in 3 barristers feel that showing signs of stress equals weakness