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New research from bedroom experts Furniture Village has revealed that the average worker loses a mammoth two years of free time to catching up on the ‘sleep debt’ they build up in the week, affecting travel plans, education and even reality TV ambitions.

Along with a new calculator designed to show each user their own personal sleep debt, they’ve teamed up with sleep experts to advise on the best ways to re-set your sleeping habits – and keep some time in reserve for achieving your dreams, instead of just having them.

70% of the UK sleeps below the recommended amount, losing an average of 41 minutes of sleep every week night, with the pressures of deadlines and early starts responsible for less snoozing in a jam-packed week. Multiply that by five, and the UK is almost five hours behind what their bodies need to function by the time the weekend rolls around, causing most people to oversleep in an effort to ‘pay back’ their body for the missed time.

This payback schedule, however, has a huge impact on British free time and productivity. In the time spent catching up on those precious hours of sleep, the average Brit sacrifices the time it would take them to:

  1. Visit 37 countries
  2. Make 45 new friends
  3. Study 2 Bacherlor’s degrees
  4. Learn 19 languages
  5. Qualify as an airline pilot 6 times

With so much already written about the impact of loneliness, thwarted dreams and less relaxation on British wellbeing, why are we still doing it? The short answer is because we’re too tired to do anything else. If we didn’t catch up on that sleep, the accumulation of minutes and hours spent out of bed would eventually have physical and mental ramifications, leading to a nation of health problems, or even just a nation of office workers asleep on their desks come Monday morning. The secret lies in resetting our attitude to sleep in the week.

Resetting The Weekday

Luckily for everyone, health experts reckon that there’s a few very easy steps you can take to calming your mind and setting a bedtime routine that cancels out your sleep debt, negating the need to pay it back. Some easy tips that everyone can follow include:

  • Exercising at least 3 times a week. Exercising can help improve your ability to fall – and stay – asleep. And it’s not just a case of fatiguing the body! Studies have shown that regular exercise across a 16-week period can cause significant improvements in the quality and duration of sleep.
  • Cutting out caffeine after 2pm. Caffeine can stay in your blood for over 7 hours after you consume it — so that 4 o’clock espresso could be what’s keeping you from drifting off at 11PM. How long our bodies take to process caffeine varies from person to person, but by cutting it out after 2PM you can be sure it won’t be interfering with your sleep!
  • Setting aside screen devices for 2-3 hours before bed. The blue light emitted by devices like computer screens and mobile phones suppresses melatonin – a vital hormone for regulating sleep. Giving yourself as much screen-free time as you can in the hours before bed allows your body to relax and get ready for sleep.
  • Embracing mood lighting. Light is one of the main ways your body knows whether it’s meant to be awake or asleep – so if you’re sitting in a brightly lit room for hours before sleep, you’ll find it harder to wind down. Mood lighting’s a great method for letting your body and brain know that bedtime is on the way.

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