Lunchtime Lecture Series: The Science of Sleep

Lunchtime Lecture Series: The Science of Sleep

Lunchtime Lecture Series: The Science of Sleep

PUBLISHED 17 May 2023

Today's Lunchtime Lecture was delivered by Mr Allan McKeown, Senior Deputy Head. He brought his biological knowledge to the fore in exploring the Science of Sleep in a highly relatable lecture, enjoyed by students in Years 7 to 12 and staff alike.

Mr McKeown explained the purpose of sleep, how it works and how we can all get a better night's sleep. He referred to studies of sleep deprivation which have shown the negative impact of sleep deprivation is cumulative, yet can affect us even when we think it doesn't.

He introduced the sleep-wake cycle to show how different phases of sleep restore our body (slow wave or 'deep sleep') and mind (REM sleep) and how our circadian rhythms are affected by light, time and melatonin. He explained that whilst it doesn't matter whether we are morning larks or night owls, consistency is key.

His top tops for sleeping better included: (1) establishing a 'powering down' ritual before bed; (2) utilising relaxation techniques; (3) getting outside during the day; (4) keeping the lights low/off in the evening (5) avoiding caffeine in the afternoons; (6) ensuring that we use our bedrooms only for sleep. He also recommended harnessing natural sleep aids, such as taking regular exercise (but not two hours before bedtime); keeping our bedrooms cool (18 degrees), as well as noting that some find white noise (e.g. a fan) helpful - but that (for adults), alcohol reduces the quality of sleep by delaying the REM cycle.

In summary, he noted that sleep is "free, under-rated, required for optimal performance and even survival" and that it's consistency which counts.


Our lunchtime lectures take place each half term and focus on thinking which extends beyond the curriculum. They are part of our wider scholars programme, which is compulsory for Academic Scholars. All students in Years 7 to 13 are welcome. Find out more online here.

AUTHOR: Alex Brown
CATEGORIES: News, Senior School
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