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Sleep, Schools, Comets & Comedians

On Wednesday night I was invited onto the Islam Channel’s flagship show – Living the Life. At first glance, it is not easy to see what a Rapper, Comedian, Astronomer and Sleep Specialist might have in common, but amazingly it worked!

You can view me talking about the importance of sleep with presenters Sadiya and Rahim here.


First to appear was Chris Bramley, astronomer and Editor of the ‘Sky at Night’ Magazine. It would be an understatement to say that Chris was a very happy man because only a few hours before the European Space Agency (Esa) had managed to achieve the impossible. After 10 years of planning and a 6.4 billion km journey they had managed to land a small robot onto a moving comet. Not only a first for human space exploration, but also with the potential to further our understanding of the origins of our Solar System.

His fascinating interview highlighted the simple truth that we live on a planet that is constantly cycling between light and dark (day and night), and has been doing so for billions of years. The regulation of the human body has becomes attuned to this 24 hour cycle, with our internal body clock telling us when to wake up, eat, be active and when to fall back to sleep.

Respecting the rise and fall of the sun is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to boost health. Sadly, for many of us this is the last thing we do as we sit in bed checking Facebook on our smart phone or tablet. The blue light emitted by these devices is so-called because it is the same wavelength as blue sky which, when exposed to at night, tells the internal body clock that it is day, thereby stopping the release of the sleep promoting hormone melatonin. The simple act of ‘darkening down’ your evenings, by switching off such devices 30 – 40 minutes before bed is enough to inform your brain that sleep is on its way, and prevent the potential sleep disturbing effects of blue light exposure.

One age group where blue light exposure is worryingly high is children. Excessive use of such gadgets before bed has been proven to negatively affect sleep quality and impact on their mental, emotional and behavioural development. Children need more sleep because this when they do the bulk of their growth and development before becoming an adult.

The importance of sleep on a child’s ability to learn was discussed during the show when the hip hop artist, Alim Kamara, spoke about his A-Scholars International Movement (ASI). Founded in 2013, this award winning charitable organisation facilitates educational growth for Sierra Leonean schools by directly providing them with essential school materials, as well as providing motivational talks and entertainment through story-telling, performing arts and dance.

Sleep and education go hand in hand.  When we sleep the brain processes all of the information learnt during the day and stores it into our long-term memory banks. So, if you’re currently studying for an exam you would be far better off going to bed early and getting a good night’s sleep rather than staying up cramming all night!

The final guest was comedian Salman Malik. High spirited, he highlighted the importance of play in our everyday life. The power of comedy (or even just the ability to play), is that it allows us to see potentially stressful events in a different light. Mindfulness and acceptance aim to achieve the same shift in perspective, which allow us to free ourselves from our suffering and choose to place our energy with the things of true value such as our families and friends. Research tells us that a happy and content brain is a sleepy brain and so making time for a little comedy in your life could be the answer to a good night’s sleep.


Living The Life

Living The Life line up: Dr Guy, Sadiya, Alim, Rahim, Chris, Salman