Personal Growth - Sleep tight !
by Vaibhav Sharma
Power naps can recharge youWhile sleeping in the day can cause sleepless nights, there are times we do not have a choice. If you have been pulling too many all-nighters at work or college and find yourself too drained – a
If there is one thing we hated as kids, it
was being told to go to bed. It is funny
how most of us can easily look back to
a time when we would actually rebel
against sleeping. Unfortunately, as the
years go by and the responsibilities pile on,
the reverse becomes true – we would like to
get more sleep, but there is always work to be
done and places to go.
Packed schedules and stressful lifestyles have contributed to what is often considered an epidemic of insomnia. We spend most of the day working, come back home, turn on the TV, and drift off to an uneasy sleep, waking up the next day feeling tired and groggy. There is also a reverse effect at work here – some of us look at sleep as ‘something for the weak,’ and pride ourselves on needing just a couple of hours each night.
What we do not realise is that a lack of sleep – or rather, a lack of quality sleep – has a detrimental effect on our systems. You might look at sleep as ‘resting’ time for your body but that would be understating it quite a bit. Sleep is more than just giving ourselves a break – it is necessary for our mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
How much is enough?
While the exact mechanism behind sleep is still a mystery, scientists agree upon its importance. Contrary to popular belief, our minds are quite active during sleep, and some studies say that REM sleep (the period of sleep associated with dreams), causes a 20 per cent spike in our brain metabolism.
In fact, sleep is when our bodies repair themselves and clean away the clutter of our daily routine – REM sleep has been linked to higher creativity, and can also have a lasting impact on our mood the next day. Research has also shown that lack of sleep is associated with mood swings, lowered immunity, higher incidence of lifestyle diseases, poorer work performance, and higher chances of getting into accidents, and much, much more. At the same time, proper sleep is linked with higher levels of energy and greater life satisfaction.
For something that is so vital to our health, sleep gets surprisingly little attention – we will agonise over our diets, and meticulously draw up fitness plans, but sleep is relegated right to the end of our priorities. While as kids we would be encouraged to get more sleep, as adults, it is dismissed as a waste of time – why sleep when you could be working or partying?
Unfortunately, getting less sleep than you need, affects your health as much as overindulging in food or drink. While there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ amount of sleep, most experts say that anything less than seven hours puts us at risk of impaired performance and judgement. Having said that, there are some people who are perfectly fine with just five hours of sleep, while others find nine hours to be the optimum amount.
Some signs that you do not get enough sleep are:
• Fatigue and a lack of motivation
• Irritability, aggression
• Weight gain
• Water retention and skin problems
• Difficulty focussing at work or school
Lack of sleep does not cause only shortterm health issues, but can also have longlasting consequences for your health.
According to some studies, some possible complications that might lead from longterm sleep deprivation include:
• A higher risk of diabetes, obesity, and depression
• Lowered sex drive
• Increased stress levels and blood
• Lowered self-esteem
• Learning difficulties
• Poorer job performance and lowered creativity
• Higher risk of accidents
• Some studies also indicate that a lack of sleep over the long term could even lower our life expectancy
How to improve your sleep
If you are one of those who cannot get a peaceful night’s sleep easily, you can work on some areas:
Exercise: For those of you who feel too full of energy come bedtime, exercise can help you sleep better. A caveat – exercising too close to your bedtime can have the opposite effect.
Eat on time: Another consequence of a busy lifestyle is irregular meal timings. Apart from causing weight gain, eating too late at night might give you restless sleep.
Avoid stimulants: Coffee might help you get through a hectic workday but avoid caffeine, cigarettes, or any other stimulant too close to bedtime. For some people, even something as mild as green tea can keep them up for a while.
Avoid alcohol at night: A nightcap might seem like a good way of getting sleep after a long day at work, but in the long run, it will make sleep more difficult to come by. The same goes for sleeping pills – you are also putting yourself at risk of a substance abuse problem if you come to depend upon these.
Turn off that TV: No, do not just turn it down – turn it off, and then turn off the power switch. Look around your bedroom – there is probably a TV, a set-top box, a laptop, and perhaps a set of speakers – all of them fitted with bright LEDs that can be very disturbing for anyone trying to sleep. Even if you choose to leave the mains power on for your electronic devices, covering their LEDs with some tape might help alleviate this issue. For those of you awakened by the early-morning sun, a simple trick like thicker curtains can go a long way.
Devices and apps: If you have tried these suggestions but nothing seems to work, you could look at sleep devices like white noise machines (you can also buy white noise apps for your smartphone). Some people find these extremely conducive to a good night’s sleep, while for others, putting on a relaxing CD – nature sounds, guided meditation, or soothing chants – might do the trick.
Keep a diary: Keeping a daily journal that also includes your sleep quality and dreams will let you assess what affects your sleep. You can also check out smartphone apps that help you keep a dream/sleep journal.
Do not worry: Worrying about getting enough sleep might actually harm your sleeping pattern. For many people, waking up in the middle of the night is a common occurrence –one that should not cause any alarm. Wind down gradually: Just as we rarely jump from a sleepy state to complete alertness, winding down your evenings gradually can help your body adjust better.
Get off your bed: If you cannot sleep, it is pointless and counterproductive for you to toss and turn. Leave your bed and read something soothing (Life Positive suggests itself!) or do some yoga, or meditation. Good bedding: Make sure that you have comfortable and firm bedding. It is worth investing in a good quality mattress. Make sure your pillows are not too firm and not too soft.
Meditate: This is the number one way to have a good night’s sleep as it helps you to move into a deep relaxation mode. You could also try to relax every part of your body starting with your head and moving towards your toes. Giving yourself reiki is also a good way to go to sleep.
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