I was on BBC Radio Manchester this morning, talking about some sleep research from Kings College in London that says, depending on which newspaper you read, that an extra 20 or 90 minutes sleep will help you lose weight. You can read about the research here
Now we already know that a lack of sleep can lead us to craving sugary food; basically, if you are not getting your energy from sleep your body looks for other quick sources of energy and turn to things like sugar and caffeine. So, it makes sense that better sleep leads to us craving these things less and this can lead to weight loss.
This shows the research isn’t wrong, although it was carried out on an incredibly small amount of people. What it is though, is a massive waste of money. It hasn’t moved our understanding of sleep on, there are no great insights from it and as sleep is not something that can be forced, so therefore we can’t make ourselves get 20, or 90 minutes more sleep it is not even something we can do. In fact, for many poor sleepers who are getting insufficient sleep all this kind of research does is make them worry more. And what is the biggest inhibitor of sleep? Stress and anxiety. Therefore research like this isn’t just not really needed, it is in fact probably contributing to poor sleepers continuing to sleep poorly. So, yeah, thanks guys!
Most annoyingly it is not the only piece of sleep research this week that tries to connect sleep and weight loss. Sealy, the mattress brand released some research that they claim showed the exact time you should wake up to lose weight (read about it here). Although it wasn’t that exact (between 6-6.59am, which coincidently is the time most of us wake up) it was also a load of bunkum. Now Sealy have done some good things in the past, they recently released a workplace sleep paper that was well put together and had some great advice.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is some great research done into sleep. This research for example, which is looking at how, by understanding circadian rhythms better, we can improve the treatment of brain cancer. This kind of research is amazing and if we are going to fund research it should be this kind of research.
My point is that 2018 has got to be the year of “So What?” when it comes to sleep. I think we have established that lots of us don’t sleep very well and that not sleeping well can have a detrimental impact on our health. When are we going to start funding sleep support for poor sleepers? When are we going to ensure health professionals ae properly trained so they start giving out advice on sleep that is based on proven understanding and techniques, rather than whatever they have done in their own lives.
The research from Kings College probably cost, from my experience, about £15,000. Again, from my experience the cost of helping poor sleepers is about £8 per person and rises to about £95 per person for more chronic sleep issues. For that hypothetical £15,000 we could have helped 1900 poor sleepers or 161 people with more serious sleep issues. Isn’t that what we should be doing?
Imagine how many people Sealy could have helped with the money they spent on the research and promotion of the silly idea that there is a time that you can get up at to help you lose weight. They could have spent that money in their local community, or within their workforce and made a real difference to people who sleep poorly. Instead they decided to produce a piece of research that is only good for clickbait.
Sleep Professionals, sleep practitioners, sleep researchers and sleep brands need to come together and agree that we are going to start trying to solve the sleep issue we face; that we have established that many people don't sleep well, that it is detrimental to our health and that we are going to do something about it. When you read an article about sleep you need to ask yourself; does it answer the most important question of all. "So What?"
I would love to hear your thoughts on this blog, please get in touch!