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The importance of sleep hygiene

Waking up at the same time daily and going to bed only when feeling are some of the rules of a healthy lifestyle.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 20:22 IST

If your work performance is suffering or memory and concentration are being affected or relationships are taking a severe hit due to mood swings, it might all be because of poor sleep hygiene.

And believe it or not, lack of sleep hygiene might also cause heart diseases, depressions and alcohol-related problems.

With the fast changing socio-cultural scenario and increase in stress levels, which does not allow for adequate relaxation, more and more people are having sleep-related problems.

The role of television, family problems and daily life hassles are further worsening the issue.

Approximately over one third of adults have sleeping troubles - insomnia (lack of sleep), hypersomnia (sleeping excessively), parasomnia (unusual and undesirable phenomenon occurring in sleep) and sleep-wake schedule disorders (displacement of sleep from the biological rhythm due to jet lag and night shifts), according to experts.

Around nine per cent people have chronic sleep difficulties which leads to health problems.

For shift workers, the frequent routine rotation adds to the problems. Also, to meet social demands, shiftworkers often adopt a non-shifted sleep-wake schedule on weekends and holidays.

"We talk about self hygiene, in terms of dental hygiene, body hygiene but in todays time with stressful and irregular lifestyle, sleep hygiene should not be neglected," says Dr Samir Parihar Mental Health and Behavioral Science expert.

"We have to understand that inadequate sleep adversely affects many aspects of a persons life. Poor work performance, economic affects, decreased work place productivity and motor vehicle crashes are just a few of them," he added.

The human body has a biological clock in the brain, that relates and adapts to the change in the day-night cycle of the environment. With the day and night cycle, and the sleep wake pattern, many body changes take place, he explained.

"This includes, activity and rest, and various body hormones and chemicals, which follow the cyclic pattern, and other physiological processes," Dr Parihar said.

"When the sleep awake cycle is changed, then the body clock needs to readjust and adapt, and make the body corrections. The longer the shift, more time is needed by the body to adjust resulting in psychological, behavioral and physical problems," he added.

Dr Parihar recommends some lifestyle changes to correct sleep disorders.

To begin with, he suggested waking up at the same time daily, including holidays and weekends and going to bed only when feeling sleepy.

Tastefully done up rooms in with soothing colours and lights which relaxes a person are highly recommended by the doctor.

"The bedroom is not a battleground, emotional and family conflicts must be handled outside the room and when one enter the room one must feel relaxed," the psychiatrist said.

Stimulants like coffee, nicotine and alcohol and daytime naps must be avoided.

"These substances must be kept away from. Trying 20 minute hot bath near bedtime is a good idea," he advised.

Sleep hygiene can also be maintained by establishing a regular physical fitness and eating at regular intervals daily.

"Regular exercise and avoiding large meals at bedtime are a must. We know these small things but they make a lot of difference to leading a healthy life," he added.

Dr Parihar also suggests practising evening relaxation routines, like progressive muscular relaxation or meditation.

"With the hectic pace of life it is a must to adopt some kind of practices which relaxes body and mind," he added.