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Doze off in tranquility: Overcoming sleep irritants for restful nights
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Doze off in tranquility: Overcoming sleep irritants for restful nights

Various factors, ranging from bed bugs to stress, can get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Experts recommend inculcating certain habits to keep such irritants at bay

Sleep irritants refer to factors that disrupt or hinder sleep

Sleep irritants, which refer to factors that can disrupt or hinder sleep, can range from pests and environmental influences to screen time and stress. It’s crucial to address such irritants to prevent serious health consequences.

“Unwashed bed sheets, covers, pillows and pillow covers can harbor a variety of bacteria. If the bed sheets and covers are not exposed to sunlight, they can become moist, creating the ideal environment for mold growth,” says Dr Smriti Naswa Singh, consultant dermatologist & cosmetic dermatologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai. In addition, bed linen or soft toys can attract air pollutants, which can cause itching as well.

Sleep irritants that wreak havoc

Irritants like bed bugs can cause excessive scratching. This can lead to scabies that can spread from one person to another. In addition, sweat from wearing gadgets (such as watches) can cause irritation in specific areas of the skin at night. Apart from these, some other primary factors that can disrupt sleep include:

♦ Strong smell, allergens and allergies

Intense smells or strong perfumes can be a problem for some people. In addition, those with allergies can face issues due to smoke, dust or their pets’ fur at home; even fluctuating room temperatures can cause symptoms, says Dr Sunil Kumar K, lead consultant, interventional pulmonology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore. Pollen from the home garden can disrupt sleep as well.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis (inflammation inside the nose resulting from certain allergens) like nasal congestion, excessive sneezing and a runny nose can keep one awake; food allergies can also interfere with sleep by causing breathing difficulties. “Partial or complete inflammation of the airways can lead to disturbed sleep. This can result from a variety of factors, including acid reflux that can irritate the throat,” explains Dr Manojendra Narayan Bhattacharya, consultant, ENT, Fortis Hospital, Kolkata.

♦ Stress and screen time

Stress, which is increasingly becoming a part and parcel of our daily lives, triggers the release of cortisol — a hormone that can interfere with the body’s ability to relax and fall asleep. Additionally, exposure to blue light emitted by electronic gadgets can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone essential for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. The mental stimulation resulting from gadget use can keep the mind active, making it harder to fall asleep.

♦ Obesity

Excessive screen time often correlates with increased binge eating behaviors, contributing to the risk of obesity. When an individual is overweight, their tongue, soft palate and throat become thicker, compromising the airways and causing breathing difficulties.

Ways to overcome sleep irritants

♦ Stay pest-free: Pest control measures can eliminate bed bugs and other pests, creating an ideal environment for a good night’s sleep. In addition, washing the bedding can prove effective in eliminating mites.

♦ Stick to the prescribed medication: Consult a dermatologist and adhere to the prescribed medication to rid yourself of the manifestations of mite and lice bites.

♦ Ensure sun exposure: Ensure your bedding receives direct sunlight at least once a week. Staying in a room with air conditioning and covering your windows is not a good idea.

♦ Wash bed linen: Bed linen can contain more bacteria than a toilet seat. Experts recommend washing them in warm water at least once a week.

♦ Ensure proper ventilation: Make sure your bedroom is well-ventilated to prevent fungal growth resulting from humidity.

♦ Switch detergents: If the smell of your detergent is causing irritation, you can switch to a less sulfate-laden alternative with a reduced fragrance. Rinsing the washed clothes once with water will also help.

♦ Maintain sleep hygiene: Don’t share the same pillow with others if you use some sort of ointment or cream before going to sleep. Make sure your bed is clean and try to prevent pets from entering your bedroom. Prioritize washing or mopping over dry dusting.

♦ Manage stress and limit screen time: Meditation, yoga and breathing exercises can help manage stress. You can also reach out to mental health professionals for help. In addition, staying away from gadgets before bedtime can go a long way towards getting peaceful, uninterrupted sleep.

♦ Take care of your skin: If you stay in a humid environment, take a bath before going to sleep to keep your skin moist. Avoid wearing wet underwear to prevent fungal infections and use a mild moisturizer to treat dry skin and prevent the itch resulting from it. Stay away from allergens like pollen and cotton or woolen fibers.

♦ Stay comfy: Wearing loose-fitting light clothes made from comfortable fabric can help improve sleep quality.

♦ Eat right and eliminate vices: Avoid foods that can cause acid reflux. Additionally, refrain from binging on junk foods, as they can contribute to weight gain. Stay away from cigarettes and alcohol, especially before going to bed.

However, if sleep disruptions persist despite taking all these measures, consult a specialist immediately who will detect the underlying issue and come up with an appropriate treatment plan.

Takeaways

  • Sleep irritants refer to mental, environmental or other external factors that can disrupt or hinder sleep.
  • Factors like strong smells, allergens, stress and increased screen time can significantly contribute to sleep disruptions.
  • Measures like maintaining sleep hygiene, washing your bedding thoroughly, managing stress and wearing light, comfortable clothes can help in getting peaceful, uninterrupted sleep.

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