Welcome Slumber

The best preparation for a good tomorrow is a good night’s sleep today.

~ Old Irish Proverb

Sleep over it

Sleep is not merely a little time snatched from a busy schedule. It is vital for your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Our lifestyles have changed but our bodies have not. So you may like to meet your body’s need for rest and sleep.

We must acknowledge the pivotal role of a good night’s sleep in the holistic well-being of the individual. Thus, you must find, in the tiny details of your room, a consistent effort to make sure, the greatest effort; that your sleep is not disturbed; and that you awaken fresh and rested the next day.

This little post includes some tips to help you deal with common sleep disturbances. I hope you find it useful.

Are you sleeping enough?

  1. Does the idea of a quick nap in the afternoon appeal to you?
  2. Is a long lie-in your idea of the perfect vacation?
  3. Do you roll over and steal just five minutes more of sleep in the mornings?

If you said yes to any of the above, it is more than likely that you have cut into your body’s sleep needs. The number of people, who, quite effortlessly, manage to pile up a huge ‘sleep debt’, is quite amazing.

Sleep is not merely time out from a busy schedule, and it is definitely not a waste of time. Sleep is a vital necessity, essential for good health – mental, physical, and emotional.

 Why sleep?

Insufficient sleep has myriad repercussions, from lower concentration levels to lack of muscular coördination.

When we use sleep time to increase productivity, we are actually laying the ground for diminishing returns in the long run. Not only does lack of sleep affect short-term efficiency, in the long run it results in a lower quality of life and deteriorating health.

However, one thing is clear, it isn’t how many hours we sleep that is the issue, but how we sleep; how rested we are when we wake up; and how well we go about the day.

Define your needs

Sleep patterns and needs vary from person to person, and with age. For most people, their biological clock, which is located in the brain, is aligned to a 24 hour cycle known as the circadian rhythm.

Circadian rhythms are influenced by exposure of sunlight, and can be measured by the distinct rise and fall in body temperature, as well as the presence of certain hormones in the bloodstream.

Most people’s rhythms are set to alert and active during daylight, and sleep at night. Of course, variations occur. Some people like to wake up early, others are at their best late evening. It is important to listen to your own biorhythm and work your lifestyle around it.

Do you get SAD?

This dependency of the daily cycle of the human system on exposure to sunlight is underlined by the diagnosis of the Seasonal Affective Disorder syndrome – a hormonal imbalance that occurs when this strong light signal is not received. It is more often seen in colder climates, where the onset of winter dramatically reduces sunlight levels.

The symptoms of SAD include sleep disorders, drop in concentration levels, exhaustion, lethargy, even depression. The disorder is treated, quite simply, by exposure to bright light.

So, bright light resets circadian rhythms. This fact that has been very effectively used to increase the productivity of the working day in these days of artificial lighting, but at what cost!

Changing time zones

SAD is also one of the reasons why travellers suffer from that most common sleep disorder – Jet lag. This is not the state of mind as it is often made out to be, but a physical condition that results from an imbalance between the body’s natural biological clock and the move to a different time zone.

It is possible to cut this imbalance by:

  1. Arriving at the destination early in the evening and staying awake till 10 pm local time.
  2. Avoiding a heavy meal upon arrival.
  3. Maximising exposure to sunlight as a stimulant to regulate the biological clock; Staying out of natural light increases jet-lag.
  4. Avoiding stimulants for at least 3 or 4 hours before bedtime, as these retard sleep.
  5. Avoiding heavy exercise close to bedtime for the same reason.
  6. Using ear plugs and blindfolds when trying to sleep to avoid any disturbance.

Why can’t you sleep?

What are the other factors that affect sleep?

These can be considered under three categories:

  • Physical
  • Psychological, and
  • Environmental

Physical problems that give rise to sleep disorders could be illness, pain, or discomfort. There are also numerous physiological sleep disorders that make it difficult to sleep well. Sleep Apnoea, recognised by snoring and interrupted breathing; involuntary limb movements that  disturb the normal sleep pattern, hormonal imbalance, etc. are all very real problems that can come in the way of a good night’s rest.

Burning both ends

Amongst psychological factors, stress is the major cause of short-term sleeping difficulties. Though usually the problem disappears once the situation improves, very often it so happens that stress becomes part of an integral lifestyle. Such a situation can be very difficult to resolve.

Lifestyles nowadays are not particularly conducive to a good night’s sleep. Heavy meals, stimulating drinks, erratic schedules that result in mental or physical stimulation close to what should be bedtime, confuse the system by giving a wake-up call when it should relax.

Work habits that call for late nights, coordinating across time zones such as, can play havoc with the body’s circadian rhythms.

Tossing and turning

Environmental factors include:-

Noise: This works both ways. While there are some sounds that inhibit sleep, some that will jolt you awake, it is also true that the absence of a familiar sound will not let you sleep. There are also some ‘white sounds’ such as the steady, low hum of an air conditioner or the whirring of a fan that can help sleep by blocking other sounds.

Bed, Mattress & Pillows: Physical comfort has a lot to do with quality of sleep. An uncomfortable surface or cramped space will definitely not result in fresh morning.

Temperature: If a room is too hot or too cold, it will disturb a good night’s sleep. Ideally the bedroom should be at 72 degrees Fahrenheit or 22 degrees Celsius.

For a good night’s sleep…

  • Exercise regularly, though not within three hours of settling down to sleep. Give your body a chance to cool down.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that are high in protein, carbohydrates and sugar towards the end of the day. The best bedtime snack is a complex carbohydrate with some protein and calcium content, such as a glass of warm milk. A glass of warm milk helps you drop off into a refreshing slumber.
  • Avoid bright lights. These will stimulate your system and ‘wake’ you up. The drapes over the window should be specially designed to hold daylight at bay and fill your room with the soft comforting darkness of night when you feel the need.
  • Establish a bed-time routine that will signal ‘relax’ to your brain.
  • Create a warm, comfortable sleep environment that is as pleasant, dark and quiet as you want it to be. Clear your mind. Don’t let daytime worries or stress intrude.
  • Set a morning alarm. It is possible that the fear of waking up late will not let you sleep peacefully. You must fix at least two wake-up calls or alarms so that you don’t worry about oversleeping.
  • Put on a soft, highly effective eye mask while retiring to bed, that will convince your tired eyes to relax.  If you are looking to muffle even the tiniest whisper of disturbance, then put on ear plugs that will gently protect your sleep.