Well-known sportspeople across the globe swear by their sleep. Serena Williams sleeps for seven hours a day. Cristiano Ronaldo has a unique sleeping pattern; after dinner, he meets with his friends and swims at 10 pm. He takes five naps of 90 minutes each during the day. In total, he gets 7.5 hours of sleep. Footballer Tom Brady makes sure he gets nine hours of sleep.
Sleep habits differ from person to person, but it is important to understand the sleep practices that are ideal for one’s lifestyle.
Dr Sachin Kumar, senior consultant, pulmonology and critical care medicine, Sakra World Hospital, Bengaluru, says, “Sleep is one of the necessities of life and not a luxury. It is critical to good health. Sleep helps your body repair itself. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night. However, more than one in three adults say they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep.”
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“Adults who sleep less than seven hours each night are more likely to say that they have health problems, including heart attacks, hypertension and diabetes. We suggest that you stick to a regular sleep schedule. Get yourself to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including the weekends,” he adds.
Ways to improve sleep
The US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health & National Heart Lung and Blood Institute published a book, Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. The book talks about the ways to adopt good sleep habits.
- Stick to a sleep pattern. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. A person finds it hard to adjust to changes in sleep patterns. Compensating one’s lack of sleep during the week on the weekends will not fully make up for a good sleep pattern; it can make it difficult for one to wake up early on Monday morning.
- Exercise, but not before going to bed. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day but two to three hours before your bedtime.
- Say no to caffeine and nicotine. Coffee, colas, certain teas and chocolate contain the stimulant caffeine, and its effects can take as long as eight hours to wear off fully. Therefore, having coffee late in the evening will make it hard to sleep. Nicotine often causes smokers to sleep only very lightly. Interestingly, smokers often wake up too early in the morning because of nicotine withdrawal.
- Say no to alcohol just before going to bed. Drinking that beer or a whisky just before you hit the bed to relax may not help you sleep better; you may not get deep sleep and REM sleep. It again keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep.
- Say no to large meals and beverages at night. A light snack is okay, but a large meal can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep. Drinking too much fluid before bed can cause one to wake up frequently to urinate.
- If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. Some commonly prescribed pills for blood pressure and asthma, as well as some over-the-counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds or allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see whether any drugs you’re taking might be contributing to your insomnia and ask whether they can be taken at other times during the day or early in the evening.
- No naps after 3 pm. While naps can help make up for lost sleep, later afternoon sleep will only lead to sleeplessness at night.
- Relax before bedtime. Reading a book and listening to music should become a bedtime ritual.
- If possible, take a hot bath before bed. The change in temperature of the body will help you feel sleepy.
- A comfortable mattress and pillow can help one get a good night’s sleep.
Consult a doctor
If you continue to have trouble sleeping, feel tired and are not well rested during the day despite spending enough time in bed at night, you might need better sleep habits. Your family doctor or a sleep specialist should be able to help you.