It is the end of the day, and I have a number of case files that I should deal with but there is no pressing deadline. My attention span during this part of the day is often short and I am easily distracted. I look at the remaining case files and perhaps flick between them without finishing anything and eventually I log off for the day. 

The next morning, these case files are at the top of my list and, more often than not, they are easily dealt with... making me wonder why they were so challenging the evening before. The difference is, of course, a good night of sleep and the refreshed energy levels that come with that rest. 

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep,” Eli Joseph Cossman, quoted by Matthew Walker, author of “Why We Sleep”

The following blog was initially prepared as an internal article for my firm, to support UK Mental Health Awareness Week, and gives hints and tips relating to improving your sleep, and hence your ability to work effectively, as well as having a host of other health related benefits.

The Huberman Lab

All of the information in this article comes from Huberman Lab’s special series on understanding and improving sleep. The Huberman Lab discusses science and science-based tools to help with everyday life. The quality of these podcasts is exceptional although, at around 2 ½ hours per episode, they are on the long side – so much so that I feel like I should get a diploma every time I finish one, and having listened to the six-episode series on sleep, I feel that I should be awarded a degree!

Sleep is essential

Do you want to feel better, reduce anxiety, lose weight, boost your immune system, improve your memory, enhance your learning ability, and live a longer healthier life? Then you need to sleep better!

Don’t worry about it!

There is a fair amount in the press and on social media about sleep. You might, for example, have read that you must get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night, and then be concerned if you do not. However, these averages are just averages and your personal need might be more or less. The acid test is how you feel when you wake up – do you wake naturally and feel refreshed and ready to go after 6 hours sleep, or do you need 10 hours? Neither is right or wrong but listen to your body and don’t be concerned if you depart from the average.

Also, don’t worry if you do not sleep well every night. You should be targeting good sleep at least 80% of the time, and you are hopefully doing something on the other nights that merits less than perfect sleep.

Know your chronotype

Are you a morning person or an evening person? You probably know, or at least have an inkling but take this test to confirm: Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) | QxMD

There is a natural spread of morning-types, evening-types and those in between, and whilst modern life often confines us to certain hours, you should as far as possible lean into your chronotype by setting the time you generally go to bed and wake up to match this natural preference. Flexitime arrangements can be helpful for those who generally prefer to start early or a bit later in the day.

Circadian rhythm

Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes. Your chronotype will dictate your personal preference around time to wake up and go to sleep, but we are all working within this 24 hour cycle. The cycle is reset each morning if we are exposed to sunlight or other bright lights.


Your circadian rhythm is not the only factor that influences when you start to feel sleepy. As soon as you wake up a chemical called adenosine starts to build up and the greater the build up of this chemical over time, the greater the desire to sleep. This build-up of adenosine is only disbursed when you sleep.

Circadian rhythm and adenosine are independent

One important point to note is that adenosine build up is entirely independent of your circadian rhythm. If you time things correctly, then adenosine will reinforce your natural circadian rhythm, but it is relatively easy to get these cycles out of sync. For example, if you stay up much later than usual one night, then you will have a significant build up of adenosine and a strong desire to sleep, but your circadian rhythm will still want to wake you at the normal time before the adenosine has disbursed.

Nap or not to nap?

There is some strong positive evidence regarding the benefits of short naps, but they are not for everyone. If you struggle to get to sleep at night and stay asleep, then you probably should not nap. If you do enjoy a nap, then a short 15 to 20 min nap should be sufficient to give you the boost you need. Longer naps, particularly for 90 minutes or more, are likely to impact sleep quality and leave you feeling groggy and can also disburse some of the adenosine build up, leaving less pressure to go to sleep at your usual bedtime.

Different phases of sleep

Sleep is divided into rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non-REM sleep. There are further sub-divisions, but I did not find this further detail helpful, primarily because if you are getting a good night of sleep then you cannot positively influence these different elements of sleep. On the other hand, you can do things that will negatively influence these main component parts and we will come onto that later. Generally speaking, your non-REM sleep will occur in the early part of the night and REM sleep will occur later during your sleep cycle. We dream during REM sleep.

Experiments show that when we are selectively denied REM sleep, then this has a significant negative impact on our mental health.  

Sleep trackers

Sleep trackers on, say, smart watches, can provide excellent information. However, the data  is not essential, as you know how you feel when you wake up. You don’t necessarily need a sleep score from your smart watch to confirm that, or a breakdown of your non-REM sleep vs your REM sleep. If this information is starting to become a source of anxiety, then stop using it, or only check the data once a week. The example in the podcast relates to someone who was setting an alarm at 3am to check they have had got enough non-REM sleep, thereby negatively impacting on their overall sleep quality.

Aging and menopause

Both aging and the menopause can have a significant impact on sleep and these topics are addressed in the sixth episode in the series, at 2:05:53 and 2:11:25 respectively.


QQRT is not the catchiest of acronyms but it stands for Quality, Quantity, Regularity and Timing. These are the four macros of good sleep, and you will note that good sleep is not just about the total amount of sleep, although this is relevant.   

  • Quality sleep means uninterrupted sleep
  • Quantity means somewhere between 7 to 9 hours, but see my comments above about individuality
  • Regularity means getting to bed and getting up within the same 30-minute window every day
  • Timing means aligning your sleep with your natural chronotype.

What can you do to improve your sleep?

Please don’t shoot the messenger - I appreciate that not all the suggestions that follow are practical for everyone! Here are some suggestions:


For instance, if your chronotype wants you to go to bed at 1am and wake up at 9am but you need to get up at 7am to do a school run, then it will be challenging to fit in with your chronotype. However, there may be other things you can do and the biggest impact on sleep improvement will come from fitting in as closely as possible with your chronotype, so get to know your chronotype and fit your sleep to that as closely as possible.


Regularity is essential and that involves going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. And so yes… that means getting up at about the same time on weekends as you do during the week! Excessive oversleeping on weekends and late nights will lead to the equivalent of jetlag on Monday morning.

Combining timing and regularity

A combination of regularity and timing will amplify the sleep on set signals of your chronotype and the adenosine build up, and create a powerful combination.  


Given the link mentioned above between REM sleep and mental health, you might consider setting your alarm 15 to 20 mins later, as that is when REM sleep is most likely to occur. You might be able to achieve this by setting your alarm later and not hitting the snooze button multiple times!

Before bed

Regular moderate exercise will improve your sleep, but ideally avoid strenuous exercise in the evening.

Caffeine has different impacts on different people, but generally speaking any caffeine after lunch will impact on the quality of your sleep. We can build up a tolerance to caffeine, and you might be someone who can have a double expresso at 10pm and fall asleep, but it will still impact on the quality of your sleep.

Alcohol is a sedative and can help you fall asleep, but it drastically reduces the quality of sleep. It is particularly detrimental to REM sleep, which is important for your mental health, so try to increase the number of evenings where you do not drink, to significantly increase the quality of your sleep.

Blue screens in the two hours before bedtime will confuse your circadian rhythm and may block the sleep onset signals. Therefore, limit your screen time, if possible, during this period.

A warm bath or shower immediately before bed can help you get to sleep. It seems counterintuitive, but your core body temperature drops during the initial phase of the sleep cycle, and a warm bath or shower opens up your blood vessels and allows the core body temperate to drop, even if you feel hot.

During sleep

The ideal bedroom temperature is around 18C. Keep the room as dark as possible, using an eye mask if needed.

Getting up

Immediate exposure to sunlight will help reset your circadian rhythm.

FICPI’s view

FICPI uniquely combines education and advocacy on topics around patents and trade marks, with a focus on developing the professional excellence of its individual members. FICPI is aware of the stresses and strains that come with being an IP attorney or being a partner in an IP firm and regularly invites speakers and blogs on this topic. FICPI Forums, Congress, committees and meetings are opportunities to gather insights from the international IP attorney community on any issue, whether it be practice-related or topics of patent and trade mark law.

Next steps


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