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World Sleep Day: Everything you need to know about getting a goodnight’s rest

Follow these simple techniques to sleep well and improve your alertness, productivity, memory and mood.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 17, 2017 11:31 IST
Richa Sharma
When we sleep, our bodies begin a healing process
When we sleep, our bodies begin a healing process(Shutterstock)

Along with diet and lifestyle, sleep is critical to good health and well being. Quality sleep is known to improve alertness, productivity, memory and mood. When we sleep, our bodies begin a healing process. A vital function of sleep is to help our and consolidate new memories, etching experiences more indelibly. A good night’s sleep is a tiny vacation that is inherent to feeling our best.

But first, the basics.

Sleep usually passes through five stages: 1,2,3,4 and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. A complete sleep cycle takes an average of 90 to 110 minutes. The first sleep cycles each night have relatively short REM sleep and long periods of deep sleep. But later in the night, REM period lengthen and deep sleep time decreases.

How to improve sleep quality

* Keep the room temperature comfortably cool – around 30 °C –and the room well ventilated.

*Avoid bright lights before sleep, use low-wattage bulbs instead.

*Avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola) four to six hours before bedtime.

*Finish dinner several hours before bedtime and avoid food that causes indigestion.

Avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola) four to six hours before bedtime. (Shutterstock)

How to unwind before bedtime

Try these tips to fall asleep easily:

Inhale through your left nostril

This yoga exercise reduces blood pressure and has a calming effect. Holistic sleep therapist Peter Smith says: “Lie on your left side, resting a finger on your right nostril to close it. Start slow, deep breathing through the left nostril.” Experts say this technique is particularly good when overheating or hot flushes are preventing sleep.

Squeeze. Relax.

Relaxing all your muscles can prepare your body for sleep. Anxiety expert Charles Linden says: “Lie on your back, slowly take a deep breath and at the same time squeeze your toes tightly as if you are trying to curl them under your foot. Then release the squeeze.”

Try to stay awake.

Challenge yourself to stay awake and your mind will rebel! It’s called the sleep paradox, says psychotherapist Julie Hirst: “Keep your eyes wide open, repeat to yourself ‘I will not sleep’. The brain does not process negatives well, so interprets this as an instruction to sleep and eye muscles tire quickly as sleep creeps up”.

Avoid bright lights before sleep, use low-wattage bulbs instead. (Shutterstock)

The “4-7-8” exercise

* Place the tip of your tongue against the tissue ridge right above your upper front teeth.

* Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound as you do so.

* Close your mouth, inhale slowly through your nose, counting to four.

* Hold your breath and mentally count to seven.

* Exhale completely through your mouth and count to eight.

* Make the same whoosh sound.

* Repeat for a total of eight renditions

DIY acupressure for good sleep

Based on the use of deep massage and applied pressure to energy meridians and pressure points, acupressure is thought to help remove toxins, improve circulation, reduce muscle pain and release endorphins.

* Apply gentle pressure to the small depression on the level of your brows, right above the nose for a minute.

* Press that area between your first and second toes, on top of the foot, for a few minutes until you feel a

dull ache.

* Find the distance one-third back from the tips of your toes and press on the sole of your foot for a few minutes.

* Massage both your ears for a minute.

– Courtesy ITC Hotels

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