Without sufficient sleep, we tend to wake up exhausted and moody or keep dozing off throughout the day. Yet, when it’s time for bed, those forty winks can be evasive. While it might seem like a minor concern at first, over time, the lack of sleep can lead to disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. But how can we ensure enough restful sleep? Good sleep hygiene can help you slumber peacefully.
Importance of sleep
“Adequate sleep is essential for physical and mental health. While we sleep, our bodies get the needed rest and time to restore,” says Dr Suhas HS, consultant pulmonologist at Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru. It is also during this time that your memory gets sorted into the long-term and the short-term.
However, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often end up sleep deprived. Not getting enough sleep can be detrimental and cause many health issues not just in the long run but also in the immediate future. Dr Suhas lists a few side effects of not getting enough sleep:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty in focussing
- Heart attack
What is sleep hygiene?
Hygiene is simply a set of certain rules or habits to keep ourselves clean. Similarly, sleep hygiene is a strategy or routine designed for quality sleep. Listed below are ten sleep hygiene tips recommended by experts.
Sleep hygiene tips
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Try to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This will create a pattern and your body will align with the circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock regulating alertness and sleepiness), allowing you to fall asleep on time.
- Use your bed only for sleeping: “Do not use your bed for eating, working or playing around — use it only for sleeping,” says Dr Soumya Das, consultant pulmonologist, Manipal Hospitals, Kolkata. Thus, your body and mind adapt to the fact that once you lay on your bed, you are ready to fall asleep. Using your bed for working or other activities will have a negative effect — you might feel sleepy while doing something else in the bed, but when you’re trying to sleep, you might stay awake.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment: In your bedroom, Dr Das suggests maintaining a comfortable room temperature of about 25°C-27°C. Your room should have good ventilation, while the bed needs a comfortable mattress and bedsheets made of linen or cotton.
- Avoid gadgets or devices before sleeping: Light emitted from gadgets can interfere with the sleep cycle and melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. This would delay the onset of sleep, hence, you can take longer time to fall asleep. Scrolling social media sites can keep your mind active as well, so you stay awake for longer. Try to put your gadgets and devices away at least an hour before your set bedtime.
- Sleep routine: Develop healthy habits or routines before going to sleep, like reading a book, listening to audio or a set of activities that help in unwinding. This can help you take your mind off using gadgets, says Dr Das.
- Adequate exposure to sunlight: “Make sure to get adequate sun exposure, as nature cues help in keeping the circadian rhythm in check,” says Dr Suhas. It also helps in the production of Vitamin D6, which is found to be low in individuals experiencing insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
- Avoid caffeine/alcohol: Stimulants like coffee, tea and energy drinks have caffeine in them. This suppresses the production of the hormone melatonin, which is necessary for initiating and maintaining sleep. Dr Suhas advises not to consume stimulants after 6 PM as it interrupts the body’s natural clock. Caffeine is also known to cause nocturia (excessive urination at night) if consumed later in the day, often waking up individuals during the night and causing sleep disturbances. Experts also advise against consuming excess alcohol as it also leads to a disturbed sleep cycle.
- Have early dinner: Late dinners and followed by sleep or a minimal gap between dinner and sleep can increase the chances of indigestion and acid reflux. Staying awake late at night can make one crave more food, as the dinner would have been digested by midnight. This leads to overeating at night and can also lead to obesity, further increasing the risk of sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
- Be active during the day: Ensure one hour of physical activity every day. It can include a simple 30-minute walk morning and evening, jogging, stretching, yoga or an activity of your choice. This can regulate the production of hormones and helps in improving your metabolism.
- Practising yoga nidra: Yoga nidra, also known as non-sleep deep rest (NSDR), is a guided relaxation and meditation technique. It involves a series of breathing exercises using long exhalations and body scans that help individuals achieve deep sleep or relaxation.