Oh Sleep, Please Come to Me
Millions of people round the world are chronic users of sleeping pills or other intoxicants to rest each night increasing the risk of death and poor health. Dr A Banerjee, Director Sleep Medicine and Research Center at MGM Institute of Health Sciences emphasizes the importance of good sleep to regenerate the body’s mechanisms and ward off diseases like diabetes, hypertension and bipolar disorder.
Sleep is essential for a healthy life. Every person requires the right amount of sleep so that they can rest properly and restore all the substrates of brain as well as bodily functions and get up with a healthy body and a fresh mind. On the other hand, if we do not have a sound sleep, we feel irritated, are unable to focus on your work and become stressed out. All this not only affects our health but our lifestyle as well. This is the reason that one should get good sleep no matter how busy you are or what the pressure of work is. If you wish to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, sound sleep is necessary or else you will be affected by a number of health concerns. You definitely do not want this to happen. So never compromise with your sleep as it is the necessity of life and you cannot ignore it.
What are the common types of sleep disorders?
The most prevalent sleep disorders are the following four along with their sub types:-
- Sleep Apnoea
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Narcolepsy (excessive daytime sleepiness)
The theme for this year’s World Sleep Day is ‘Sleep Soundly, Nurture Life’. Could you elaborate on its significance?
'Sleep Soundly, Nurture Life' is the aptly chosen slogan for the World Sleep Day 2017. It explains comprehensively the preventive, promotive and curative aspects of a number of physical, mental and psychosocial disorders of human being, just by practicing good Sleep Hygiene across all ages.
What are the dangers of sleep deprivation? Is there a burden of sleep problem in society today?
It’s a huge problem in our society, urban more than the rural and across all the ages, but still not being recognized by general population as well as by the medical fraternity in general in India. It is causing loss of working hours, serious disabilities, accidents and many losses of lives are directly attributable to it. In urban society more than sixty per cent people from adolescence to elderly have been found to have been sleep deprived.
Sleep deprivation is nearly as misunderstood as sleep itself, but it can physically and mentally harm people in myriad ways. Losing sleep can cause poor attention, poor concentration, poor judgement, hallucinations, psychosis, and long-term memory impairment. Some studies have linked sleep deprivation to chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and bipolar disorder.
What are the advantages of a good night’s sleep?
While we are sleeping, our brain is preparing for the next day and regenerating the neurotransmitters used. It's repairing and forming new pathways to help us learn and remember information. It also helps other body enzymes to regenerate.
Studies show that a good night's sleep improves learning. Whether you're learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car; sleep helps enhance the attention span, learning and problem-solving skills, appearing in examinations. Sleep also helps to pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. It boosts immune functions, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions. It improves appetite and controls the weight
Does what and when you eat affect the ability to sleep?
In a health column in "The Globe and Mail" newspaper, dietitian Leslie Beck recommends eating your last large meal of the day no later than two to three hours before you go to bed. If you are up late and it's been four to five hours since your last large meal, eat a small snack before bedtime. Beck recommends snacks that digest quickly, such as a piece of fruit. Avoid beverages such as coffee and alcohol in the night, as they can harm the quality of your sleep.
What about use of electronic gadgets before going to bed. Does it impact sleep in any way?
There is robust scientific data documenting the role of light, sound and EMF (electromagnetic field) disturbances in promoting wakefulness. Photoreceptors in the retina sense light and dark, signalling our brain about the status of the outside world and aligning our circadian rhythms (centred in a small region of the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus) to the external day-night cycle. This signalling of light and dark helps us to be alert in the morning and be able to fall asleep at the appropriate time at night. The power of light as an alerting agent is easily conceptualized when we think of the sun, but may be more difficult to appreciate when considering the light emitted from a tablet or smartphone. Similar day time signalling is being received due to sound as well as EMF disturbances produced by electronic gadgets. Nonetheless, careful studies have shown that even our small electronic devices emit sufficient light and EMF to miscue the brain and promote wakefulness. As adults we are subject to these influences and our children are particularly susceptible. Hence, it is advisable to switch off all electronic gadgets at bed time for effective good quality sleep.
It’s challenging to get the sleep you need in modern day. How can we get through the day with few hours of sleep?
Your life won't wait until you're rested, so you need all the energy you can get to get through today. Some of the nation's leading sleep doctors offer tips on how to power through the day after a bad night's rest. If it happens frequently it adversely affects health
- Caffeine, in Moderation. Caffeine can help when you need an energy boost.
- Don't Rely on Sugar. When you're sleep deprived, you may be tempted to reach for a candy bar. Don't. Sugar will give you quick energy. It doesn't last.
- Take Breaks. After a bad night's sleep, your attention span may drag a little more than usual. To keep focused, take breaks throughout the day.
- Simplify Your Day. Let's face it, you're not at your best when you don't sleep well. So lighten your work load as much as possible. By doing fewer things, you can still do a quality job without stressing out.
- Avoid Driving. Drowsy driving is dangerous, since it can lead to accidents. Stay off the road as much as possible if you haven't slept.
- Sleep in, a Little Tonight. When you go to bed tonight, you might be tempted to sleep longer than normal. Moderation, again, is the key here.
How can one avoid becoming dependant on sleep medications?
Millions of people take sleeping pills or other intoxicants to rest each night. Yet they don’t produce natural sleep. They worsen memory. They increase the risk of death. It is important to educate, counsel and wean them off gradually (under de-addiction programme if necessary) and teach them sleep hygiene. The process is tedious and has a high relapse rate. Proper “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)” by trained person helps.
What are the best ways for most of us to get a good night’s sleep? Can you give us 10 tips for better sleep?
- Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body's clock.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety.
- If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
- Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity.
- Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool, free from any noise that can disturb your sleep.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening as they disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep.
- Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
- If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment.
Lastly, does the proverb ‘Early to bed and early to Rise’ still hold true in today’s world?
Finally, I would like to say that above phrase may not be true. It is widely accepted that there are people who tend to get up and go to bed early, and others who get up and go to bed late, depending on several factors, including genetics. Also, there is a difference in the amount of sleep required for people in various age groups: some need more, some need less sleep. I think what matters the most is the amount of quality sleep you get.
(Dr A Banerjee, Shaurya Chakra, MBBS, MD, DM (Neuro), HDMC, Surgeon Commodore (I.N-Retd.), Prof & Head of Neurology, MGMIHS, Director Sleep Medicine and Research Center, MGMIHS, Chairman Medicine and Allied, MGM Medical College, Kamothe, Navi Mumbai).