Come along and listen to the lullaby of technology

Getting enough sleep can be as beneficial to your health as losing weight, eating properly or being in a loving relationship — and of all these it is probably the easiest for us to control.

As we age our sleep patterns change. We marvel at our teenagers who snooze till the afternoon while we are up at the crack of dawn, but often later in the day we are tired and lethargic. It turns out that few of us get enough sleep. I think we all know that on some level, and complain about it at least when the alarm goes off, waking us from a deep slumber. But getting enough sleep has real long-term health benefits, and lack of sleep puts us at risk on all sorts of levels.

Most of us will never go to a real sleep clinic, where they wire you in and measure your sleep cycles, stages and patterns. Most people who go through this process are at real risk due to sleep apnea or some other condition. Still, most of us would benefit from understanding our sleep patterns a bit better — and we all would benefit from having a sleep strategy!

London Drugs has a compelling program I think many of us could benefit from. It’s a one-week program you can undertake which will analyze and assess your sleep patterns, and give you an accurate snapshot of your sleep health. It is based on a pretty cool device — a watch called the ReadiBand that monitors your activity. You wear the watch for a week and it records your sleep cycles. A report is then printed from the watch that is translated by a London Drugs patient-care pharmacist, giving you an accurate picture of your sleep patterns, identifying if there may be a problem you should be addressing and most importantly, offering you some sound sleep advice.

I partook on this voyage of discovery a few weeks ago, and it was eye-opening.

You sign up for a clinic, by contacting your pharmacist at London Drugs. At the start of the clinic (what they call the one week program) you are issued your ReadiBand, a rather drab looking watch (yes, it does work as a watch) that will remain on your non-dominant wrist for the duration — while you shower, while you eat, while you walk and while you sleep. It records your active and resting periods.

I need to point out this is not deep level testing, and your brain waves and blood pressure are not being monitored here — that is the stuff of dedicated sleep clinics. This program is more an overview. At the end of the week I was booked into a 1 hour debrief with the pharmacist, who downloaded the data from the watch, and printed out a report.

The result of my clinic was pretty typical of my age group: I don’t get enough sleep! I average 6 hours a night, and I should get 7 to 8.

The ramifications of insufficient sleep are far reaching. Overall, your body doesn’t heal as well from life’s little bangs, bruises and illnesses. With my moderate shortfall of one hour per day, I tend to lose steam in the afternoon, and at times the lack of sufficient rest will effect my Cognitive Effectiveness and Reaction Time, or CERT. This is analogous to having a drink — or more than one if you are more sleep deprived. My pharmacist consultant explained to me that tests done indicate that lack of sleep has much the same effect on your mental and motor skills as alcohol! As an added insult to injury, if you are trying to lose weight, statistics say 8 hours of sleep leads to greater weight loss than for people who get less sleep but burn the same calories and eat the same!

It was very interesting to look at a graphic representation of what my activity patterns are through the day and my rest at night. It turns out I am remarkably consistent with my wake cycles. What was very inconsistent was my bed time; it was all over the map. And here was the most salient piece of advice I gained from this clinic: the most valuable thing I can do to reach a healthy sleep level, is to establish a bed time!

So if you are sometimes dragging your assets, invest a little time in learning about your own sleep patterns. Who knew a little shut-eye could be such an eye-opening experience!

Steve DobbsSteve Dotto is Canada’s most respected geek. For over 15 years, as host and executive producer of Dotto Tech, a nationally syndicated TV show, Steve has entertained and educated millions of Canadians on all aspects of technology. Steve has a passion for understanding the social impact of technology. His DVD Cybersafe with Steve Dotto , teaches parents and caregivers about the opportunities, dangers and challenges of social networking.

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