Saturday, June 02, 2012

Sleep easy......

   Have you been falling sick more often than usual and taking longer to recover? Suffering from impaired memory and concentration (maybe your kids are)? Are you easily irritable? Falling asleep at the wheel? These are all impacts of chronic lack of sound, rejuvenating sleep.

     Wouldn’t it be great if we had 26 hours in a day? It feels like we don’t have enough time to accomplish what we need to AND get a good night’s sleep as well. Late night conference calls, studying, parties or even preparing for the next day’s lunch box are some of the reasons we end up compromising on the required forty winks.

     The most common reason for lack of sleep is being a new parent –  there’s help at this website to settle your little one into a sleep routine –

     The collective name for daily sleep inducing practices is called Sleep Hygiene. Following these simple rules collectively, promotes a restful sleep session:

-     Awake and go to sleep at a fixed time every day.

-     Avoid napping during the day as it ‘steals time’ from your effective night sleep time.

-     Exercise vigorously and regularly (at least 30 mins, five times a week) but not within 2-3 hours of bedtime.

-     Use comfortable bedding and set a comfortable room temperature – don’t turn the AC below 23 - 25 °C (for Chennaites)

-     Block out all distracting noise and light. Use heavy curtains if there’s a street light outside your window.

-     Don’t lie / sit on your bed to complete work or watch TV. In fact, it’s recommended not to have a TV in the bedroom.

-     Acid reflux, stress, depression and anxiety are conditions known to interfere with sleep – address these issues if present. If your mind is over-active, get out of bed, sit in a chair and read something in a lighter vein, listen to your favourite gentle music or practice relaxing breathing techniques till you feel sleepy –then move back to bed.

Some Nutrition tips for a good night:
  • Avoid alcohol, colas, caffeine, spicy and sugary foods 4 – 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Eat dinner at least 2 hours before sleep but don’t go to bed hungry either.
  • A glass of warm milk with honey and saffron or a banana contains sufficient tryptophan to help induce sleep. Nuts are also a good source of this amino acid.
  • Avoid excess fluid intake within half an hour of going to sleep or else you’ll wake up to use the bathroom.
  • Avoid eating foods at dinner that may cause gas or heartburn.

     Insomnia is defined as difficulty in initiating or maintaining sleep through the night. You may have tried some of the above steps to alleviate it but DO all of the above in totality and persist even when you’re not seeing results. Continue for at least 2 weeks to a month. If you still don't see results, many major hospitals now have Sleep Clinics - get your condition diagnosed and treated.

     For a while now, we've been hearing about sleep apnoea, a sleep disorder that's increasingly common. Chronic snorers who show symptoms of sleep deprivation and wake up repeatedly during the night gasping for breath should get themselves checked for the condition since the consequences in the long run can be serious. Sufferers tend to be overweight, may have had a stroke or a thyroid issue.Weight loss mostly is the cure. This condition has been said to increase risk for high blood pressure and heart attacks.The link is definitely there but these are mainly due to the disturbed sleep cycle, the excess weight and other conditions, if present.

     Lack of sleep for an extended period of time results in an underlying condition of physical stress, causing hormonal changes which can predispose a person to put on weight or even have a heart attack (if he’s at risk). More on this soon.

     At any age, you should feel refreshed and rejuvenated when you wake up. If that isn't happening, don’t settle for anything less. With a little attention to the small things, you can form healthy sleep habits and watch your productivity soar!

This article was published in 'Life in Adyar', Chennai -  June 2nd, 2012.