The quality of your sleep is important, as it is the only time that the brain rests. Every individual needs seven or eight hours of rest daily. Sleep is disrupted by our emotional state and is said to be influenced by chemicals and hormones like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin. Lack of sleep can affect the body’s metabolism and moods, which may lead to irritability and tiredness. This may lead to depression. Irregular sleep may also raise blood pressure in some individuals. Lack of sleep can affect the body’s immune system and may cause serious metabolic disturbance, leading to obesity and diabetes. Some people depend on sleeping pills, but these are needed to treat short-term disorders.
Why you can’t sleep?
Don’t consume a heavy dinner as it disrupts sleep. Avoid heavy exercises such as aerobics or jogging just before bedtime as they release adrenaline, which disrupts sleep. Adjust your room temperature between 22-24 degree C, as very hot or cold conditions can disturb your slumber. Avoid stimulants like caffeine as they keep you awake. An uncomfortable bed may lead to broken sleep due to muscle aches, so make sure that you have a cosy mattress. Don’t go to bed on an empty stomach as it may cause difficulty in falling asleep. Getting unnecessarily anxious about day-to-day issues will keep you awake at night.
During old age, the quality of sleep deteriorates and the tendency of waking up in the middle of the night increases. Women may experience broken sleep during periods and pregnancy. Those nearing menopause also can be affected by disrupted sleep due to hot flashes at night.
Keep a regular sleeping schedule — fix a time for going to bed and waking, and try not to break this routine even on holidays. Sleep only at night by avoiding daytime naps. You can occasionally take a power nap to make up for lost sleep, but not for more than 15-20 minutes.
If you feel sleepy immediately after dinner, engage in less stimulating activities like chatting with your family. Take a shower with warm water just before going to bed as it helps to relax your tense muscles. Do not talk about work at bedtime. Read a book or listen to light music. Try to be cheerful as that releases your day’s stress. Switch off all light sources before going to bed as light can adversely affect your circadian rhythm. Try an aroma oil massage with nutmeg or chamomile oil. Soak your feet in warm water for three to five minutes just before sleeping. Drinking a cup of hot milk before bedtime also works.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre