For thousands, the elusive road to slumber-land is anything but a dream. It is a traumatic experience for a person to be wide awake when the rest of the world is asleep. Every minute seems to pass like eternity. This disorder, which the doctors call insomnia, can have far-reaching consequences on one’s everyday life. It can have a negative impact on concentration, affect productivity and cause mood swings. Lack of sleep puts us at risk of diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
Some people tend to wake up too early. Others suffer from poor sleep quality. Insomnia produces mental sluggishness, decreased alertness, fatigue and sleepiness in the daytime. It also causes frustration.
Causes of insomnia:
The known reasons are:
Psychological: Anxiety, depression, worry, anger
Genetic: Hormonal changes during menopause and menstruation
Environmental: Noise, discomfort, travelling in different time zones often
Physical: Pain, excessive exercise
Medical conditions: Heart diseases, breathing problems, digestive complaints, high blood pressure
Drugs: Like nicotine, caffeine, heroin, cocaine
Sleeping pills and tranquillizers: Cause sleep disturbance
Other prescription drugs: Contraceptives, diuretics, slimming pills, stimulants
Deal with sleeplessness:
A glass of warm milk, which contains tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin), encourages sleep.
Eat legumes, peanuts, fish or poultry. They’re rich in vitamin B3 (niacin) and promotes healthy sleep.
Complex carbohydrates like pasta, rice, bread, porridge made from broken wheat has a mild sleep-enhancing effect as they increase serotonin.
A bowl of warm oatmeal porridge induces warmth in stomach, encouraging sleep.
Exercise helps you to sleep better. However exercising late in the night within 2-3 hours of your sleep time may keep you awake.
The ayurvedic herb ‘Brahmi’ is also very effective in relaxing your mind and inducing a sound sleep.
Foods which interfere with sleep hence should be avoided are:
Oily and spicy foods, foods flavored with garlic, beans, cucumbers and peanuts cause gas, heartburn, or indigestion, thus leading to disturbed sleep.
High protein foods like chicken and mutton are heavy and difficult to digest, therefore inhibit sleep.
Avoid cigarettes and tobacco. Smoking seems to have a calming effect, but nicotine is actually a neuro-stimulant and can cause sleep
Limit intake of caffeine as it interferes with sound sleep.
Never eat a heavy meal before bed as your digestive system slows down and much of the calories will not be properly used by your body.
An average quota of 7-8 hours of sleep is a must for any individual to recharge his battery, in order to have the necessary drive to go through a brand new day.
(Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre)