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World Sleep Day 2018: Wake up to these important sleep facts

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On the World Sleep Day, Anupama Chandra talks about how sleep is important and is the key element for healthy living.

Sleep, why isn’t it coming?

Strap: With World Sleep Day being celebrated this month, Anupama Chandra advocates, “Join the Sleep World, Preserve Your Rhythms to Enjoy Life” mantra


With March 16 marked as World Sleep Day, as per the 2018 theme let’s ‘Join the Sleep World, Preserve Your Rhythms to Enjoy Life’. As a young adult, I learned it the hard way.

A hyperactive collegian, who also held down a full-time job, I felt proud that I could subsist on tiny portions of sleep, at less than 4 hours per day. A tiny snatch at the fag end of the night and any two winks I could squeeze in, whenever the opportunity presented itself. I had been this way as far as I can recall. And then came the day that ma and baba had warned me about for all along—the crash.

Sleeping is Essential

Despite being bone-tired, I could not fall asleep, especially in the night. In the daytime, I felt a constant fog clouding my cognitive activities (thinking, decision-making, learning, etc.), and I was a total zombie in my relations with family, friends and, yes, at work and college. They dragged me to my General Physician (GP), who broke it to me that it was not that I was not ‘getting enough sleep’. I, in fact, exhibited certain classic symptoms of insomnia, and in time, it was confirmed that I was a chronic sufferer.

Ignoring the biological need to Sleep

That was my wake-up call to treat sleep with due respect. It is a biological need like food and water, as any psychology student quoting Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will tell you. But time and again I realise that, we Indians are among the poorest sleepers, across decades of study and across the world. The last major one conducted by Fitbit between January-December 2016 mapped us sleeping on an average of only 6.55 hours a night, lower than the recommended 7-8 hours.    

Sleeping is Important to Health

According to the Institute of Medicine Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, our health and well-being is a direct result of good diet, adequate exercise and sound sleep. The trio guards us against cardiovascular diseases, obesity and related diseases, and boosts our mental health, cognitive functions and longevity.

Major Benefits of Good Sleep

Sleep

  1. Is important for being healthy
  2. Helps your heart stay fit
  3. Strengthens your immunity and fights inflammation
  4. Boosts your memory and mood
  5. Increases creativity
  6. Lowers depression
  7. Supports weight loss and management
  8. Repairs damaged tissue and produces vital hormones

Why can you not sleep?

There are several factors that can affect the quality of sleep, or the fact that you get any sleep at all, at night.

  • Stress messes with your sleep, as was the case with me. Worries, anxieties, irritations, frustrations are not conducive to sleep. If anything, they disrupt the circadian cycles and affect the quality of sleep you may get.
  • Various acute and chronic medical conditions have been found to hamper proper sleep. People ailing from arthritis, liver and heart diseases, and cancer are known to have disrupted sleep patterns because of the pain. There are also various sleep-related disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea to account for.
  • Consumption of certain types of medications, such as anti-depressants, alpha blockers, beta blockers and antihistamines, is known to cause sleep deprivation.
  • Consumption of caffeine and alcohol can also inhibit your ability to sleep well.
  • Your environment is a major factor as to what kind of sleep you would get. How cool is your bedroom, how comfortable is your bed, how much exposure to synthetic light sources you’ve had before bedtime, sound pollution surrounding your sleeping quarters— all these factors can affect how you snooze.
  • Work shifts, or schedules can affect the quality of your sleep. If you are required to work at night, it goes against your natural circadian cycle and may cause sleeplessness.

How to get a good night’s Sleep?

The first step for anyone to get adequate sleep is to take a careful look at your sleep hygiene.

  • As bedtime approaches, start by organizing your surroundings to promote sleep. Cool temperature in a dark bedroom boosts chances of restful sleep, as do quiet and calm surroundings. Don’t fail to make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable.
  • Organize your activities leading to bedtime by establishing a relaxing routine. A warm shower about an hour and a half before sleep helps.
  • Exercise is great for sleep, especially when done 5-6 hours before bedtime.
  • Skip caffeine, chocolate and alcohol after noon.
  • Eat your meal at least 3 hours before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, have a light, healthy snack.
  • Clamp down on social media, or any media for that matter, an hour before bedtime.
  • If you can’t sleep within 20 minutes of lying down, get out of bed. Read a book or do something similarly calm and relaxing, and return only when sleepy.
  • Reserve your bed for sleep and sex.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time within a half hourevery day. Develop a routine and stick by it.

People with chronic insomnia require more help. Aromatherapy helps, and many find lavender and ylang ylang oils to soothe you to sleep. A few sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy can also be helpful. Only when therapy is not enough, opt for medication.

How much sleep is enough?

It is important to remember that the ideal number of sleep hours varies from person to person. Hence, some people seem to thrive on a mere 6 hours of sleep. The best way to judge whether you are sleeping enough is to wake up spontaneously without the use of an alarm clock feeling rested, and not feel sleepy during the day.

Here’s hoping you sleep well not only on World Sleep Day but throughout the whole year.