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Why urban Indians are getting obsessed with sleep

From not getting enough sleep to waking up constantly through the night, living in a fast-paced city can wreak havoc with your rest time.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 29, 2014 17:27 IST
Sumedha Deo

You work 12-hour days regularly, often straddling time zones, spend hours commuting across the city and then meet your friends or family only in the evenings. Often, looming deadlines and social obligations mean your day extends late into the night, taking a toll on your sleep.

Reams of newsprint and innumerable studies tell you to get good sleep — both quality and quantity-wise — and this leads to a minor panic attack, which ironically, renders you sleepless. We ask experts why people — especially city-dwellers — are getting obsessed with sleep.


Also read: Insomnia, a symptom of other diseases?

Why awake
"Mumbai has become a delayed society; we are getting to be sleep-deprived,” says Dr Preeti Devnani, leading sleep expert, who practices in the Department of Neurology and Neurophysiology at Jaslok Hospital. "Socialising in the city is so late — if you drive by an urban hang-out place at 1 am, it’s packed. Even movie theatres have 11 pm shows. Noise pollution in the city is increasing which makes it difficult to maintain sleep even during early morning hours. In addition, some people also work two jobs, which put a lot of stress on them," she adds.

Increasing dependence on electronic gadgets and social media also leads to insomnia and other sleep-related disorders. "A demanding urban lifestyle, increased medical and psychiatric disorders and increased use of alcohol, caffeine and rotating working shifts (day and night) are also factors causing sleep disorders," says Dr Falguni Parikh, Consultant — Internal Medicine, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.

Getting less sleep affects our body in many ways, including lethargy, tiredness, low productivity, obesity, diabetes and a host of other ailments. Not to mention the number of sleep disorders — insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and psychophysiological or paradoxical insomnia. And in recent times, there has been an increased awareness of these. "It’s good that people are waking up to sleep," says Dr Devnani.

"Poor sleep is associated with poor productivity and sleep apnea is known to be associated with hypertension, diabetes, stroke, sexual dysfunction, and even car accidents," says Dr Ashim Desai, senior ENT surgeon and a specialist in sleep disorders, Nova Specialty Hospitals, Tardeo.

Dr Devnani suggests a good tip to find out exactly how many hours’ sleep you need: When you wake up feeling fresh after a good night’s rest, that’s your magic number. It also depends on your age — while newborns sleep for 17-18 hours, adults can get by with much less. "Approximately, 7.25 hours are required for working individuals in their 20s-40s," she adds.

Also read: Insomnia ups your risk of heart attack 3-fold


Pillow talk
If you’re experiencing difficulty with sleeping, or wake up feeling tired, don’t just ignore the signs. According to Dr Devnani, few people report sleep problems to their physicians resorting, instead, to home remedies or abusing drugs. "Sometimes, people put too much weight on home remedies and when they’re not effective they get frustrated," she says, adding, "Try yoga, especially yoga nidra, as it is particularly helpful with sleep.

Also maintain good sleep hygiene — keep a sleep ritual, exercise, avoid caffeine, tea, coffee, alcohol, or try light or photo therapy." Dr Parikh seconds her view. "Maintain regular sleep and wake-up timings; avoid having late dinners, heavy exercise and hot showers just before sleeping; and don’t use your laptop or other gadgets before sleeping," she says. Dr Desai suggests dimming your lights two hours prior to bedtime. "Sometimes, chromotherapy (use of intense blue light) at appropriate times also helps," he says.

Some foods also help calm your body and make it ready for good sleep. "The old wives’ tales have some truth — starchy foods like rice and potatoes, herbal teas such as chamomile and lavender, and nuts like walnuts and almonds help you sleep better," says nutritionist Manisha Sharma. She also suggests tryptophan-rich foods such as dairy products (cheese, milk, yoghurt), which also contain calcium a known muscle-relaxant, bananas, oats and tuna for sound sleep.