Healthy Sleep Needs Healthy Habits
A good night's sleep can have wondrous effects on your health. In fact regulating body processes and hormones at a healthy level is one of the key reasons why we sleep. But if sleep is elusive or disturbed, it is a reflection of unhealthy sleep habits. Simple behavioral changes and a healthy lifestyle can pave the path to sound sleep. Incorporating healthy changes to your lifestyle not only promote good sleep but also improve overall well-being.
It is quite easy to ascertain whether you are sleep deprived or getting adequate sleep. If you feel well-rested and energetic enough to see the day through, you can rest assured that you are getting adequate sleep. However, if you feel groggy, it's time to evaluate your lifestyle in general and sleeping habits in particular.
93% of Indians are sleep deprived, but most are not aware of the fact, or the impact it’s having on their lives. Chronic sleep deprivation is a cause of many diseases including cardio-vascular disorders and even cancer.
So, how do you get sound sleep?
How to Get Healthy Sleep?
Developing a good sleep hygiene does require committed effort initially, but it is well worth the time and effort in the long run. Here are a few simple tips for a healthy sleep:
Sleep Schedule: Be consistent with the time you hit the bed every night. This means sleeping and waking up at the same time every day. It helps tune your internal body clock—the circadian rhythm—with a healthy sleep cycle. Ensure that you allow yourself adequate time—at-least 7-8 hours—to sleep healthy every night.
Preparation: It helps to create a sleep ritual—any activity that relaxes your body and mind—before going to bed. It could include reading books, listening to music or a warm bath. Meditation and/or relaxation exercise can help induce sleep. Following the same ritual everyday intimates the body that it's time to sleep. Avoid using mobile phones, laptops or any other electronic device before sleep.
Darkness: Ensure that the bedroom is dark or minimally lit to aid good sleep. Bright lights not only interfere with sleep but also contribute to increasing the temperature of the room. It is a good idea to ensure that the bedroom is exclusively used for sleep and relaxation. So, if you have a television in the bedroom, consider moving it out to the living room. Ditto for the mobile phone and laptop/desktop.
Exercise: Make sure you get adequate exercise every day. Dancing and swimming are good forms of exercise too. Step out for a walk, jog, or cycle everyday. The more time you spend outdoors in natural sunlight and amidst greenery, the better sleep you will get. However, remember that exercise stimulates the body to secrete cortisol—a stress-busting hormone—which in turn activates the alert mechanism of the brain. Therefore, it is a good idea to exercise early in the day.
Diet: A healthy diet is crucial for a good sleep. Include greens, fibers, and a lot of water in your daily diet. Eat at regular intervals and avoid junk. Keep dinner light and allow few hours between dinner and sleep time. Avoid hitting the bed immediately after dinner as it makes it difficult to fall asleep.
Coffee/Caffeinated Drinks: Avoid coffee, tobacco, and nicotine as much as possible. Even during the day limit the intake of coffee and/or caffeinated and energy drinks. These are stimulants that affect the body for long duration and adversely impact sleep. It is observed that regular users often experience withdrawal symptoms at night that can disrupt sleep. Avoid intake of coffee or caffeine at-least 6-7 hours before bed time.
Alcohol: Avoid alcohol at night as it disturbs the sleep during the night. Although it induces sleep initially, it disrupts sleep later.
Power Naps: Power-naps are a great way to refresh and recharge your energies during the day. It is OK to nap anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes. But, anything longer than that can interfere with a good sleep at night.
Sleep Diary: Maintain a sleep diary where you note down the issues you face while falling asleep or disturbances you experience during sleep. This will help you better evaluate the patterns and issues.
People often attribute sleep deprivation to erratic work schedules and stress. The above mentioned tips generally help improve sleep hygiene and restore healthy sleep cycles for most people.
However, if you experience continuous sleepless nights, it could well be an indication of a larger underlying medical condition like Obstructive Sleep Apnea or other common sleep disorders. It is recommended that you consult a health provider for a thorough investigation and treatment. You can also start with a wise simple sleep quiz to know if you are getting quality sleep. The results will help you determine the next steps to secure a healthy sleep.