Day promotes sleep health

University of Otago sleep researchers (from left) Saramarie Kuroko, Rosie Jackson, Maddie Rowan,...
University of Otago sleep researchers (from left) Saramarie Kuroko, Rosie Jackson, Maddie Rowan, Kim Meredith-Jones and Barbara Galland take a wee nap after one of their World Sleep Day activities yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
If you get caught taking a post-lunch nap at your desk tomorrow, you can legitimately tell your boss you are celebrating World Sleep Day.

The international event involves sleep experts and community health advocates in more than 70 countries organising local, regional and national activities to promote sleep health.

A group of University of Otago sleep researchers gathered yesterday to celebrate the event early, by wearing pajamas to work, having breakfast and a coffee, then presenting new research articles on sleep to each other.

University of Otago paediatric sleep research Professor Barbara Galland said the event was always held in the middle of March because it was when the autumnal equinox happened — when night and day were about equal.

"The equinox happens next Tuesday and World Sleep Day happens on the Friday before that.

"The theme for this year’s event is ‘Sleep is Essential for Health’.

"Just like eating well and exercising, sleep really is a behaviour that is foundational for your physical, mental and social wellbeing."

Prof Galland encouraged people to think about their sleep more.

"It’s not just simply about the amount of sleep we get.

"There are elements of good-quality sleep, like continuity [how seamless our sleep is without waking up during the night], the depth of our sleep [deep sleep is when restorative processes take place] and the duration of the sleep [making sure we get enough to be alert and function well the next day].

"Sleep is a pillar of human health. It’s critical."

She said she would celebrate the event tomorrow by speaking on a public webinar, run by the Australasian Sleep Association, which would focus on sleep across our life-spans, and how it changed.