Sleep Tight, Dream Well(12th December, 2020):
For a good health, sleep is as crucial as water, nutrition, and exercises. In general, people need seven to nine hours of sound sleep each night. That would allow our biological systems the time they need to regenerate energy, balance stress, and enhance our memory and learning capacities. Just as a dead car battery needs uninterrupted charge to regenerate power, our bodies also need sleep to renew tired and stressed systems.
Stages of Sleep
Sleep can be divided into two general phases: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and non-REM (NREM) sleep.
- REM sleep is characterized by darting eye movements under closed eyelids. It stimulates the brain regions used in learning, and is also responsible for the activation of ‘amygdala’—a collection of cells near the brain’s base. As a result of this, our dreams are actually based on our accumulated ideas of day-to-day events.
- During the deep stages of NREM sleep, the body is able to repair and regrow muscles, bones, and tissues. NREM sleep is primarily associated with its beneficial effects on memory consolidation, and strengthening of the immune system. During the stage of deep sleep, our heartbeat and breathing gradually become slow as our muscles relax. Glucose metabolism in the brain also increases.
Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health
- Fatigue and brain fog
- Cognitive dysfunction and sleepiness
- Insulin resistance—It can contribute to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes
- Abnormalities in immune system’s responses to fighting infections
- Hypertension, leading to inflammation in cardiovascular diseases
- Alzheimer’s disease—During sleep, the process through which cerebrospinal fluid (body fluid found in the brain and spinal cord) cleanses the brain of harmful wastes increases tenfold. Lack of sleep compromises this process. Consequently, chances of memory loss are built up.
- Insomnia—The increased secretion of cortisol (the stress hormone) in this case can result in various mental disorders, mental agony, and stress.
How to Get Good Sleep?
- Identify your motivation, and create an ideal bedroom environment. Bright light makes you wake up. So, cover your windows with dark curtains, or shutters so that no light can shine in. You need your bedroom not only to be cool or dark, but also to be quiet.
- Are you engaging too much with electronic devices on bed? This might just be the reason why you cannot fall asleep for hours. An electromagnetic radiation, or a blue light, is said to have been emitted from devices like smartphones and laptops that stimulates you to stay awake. This is also the cause for decreasing the work of ‘melatonin’—a chemical that is responsible for maintaining a balance in the sleep-wake cycle, and secretion of important hormones.
- Watching an alarm clock causes you to calculate time inadvertently. This results in provoking anxiety, speeding up your brain waves, and making a return to sleep all the more difficult. Hence, try placing your alarm clock somewhere outside your view, like across the room with its face to the wall.
- Break habits that hinder sleep such as intake of nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine-containing foods. They increase the activity of the major wake-promoting circuit in the brain. Falling into the drinking trap causes a withdrawal, induced by an increase in the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline.
Leave your worries at the bedroom door, and take a warm bath to aid sleep. Practice progressive muscle relaxation exercises before going to bed. These kinds of exercises tenses and relaxes muscle groups without straining them. If you have a restless mind, then you can also record thoughts that keep you awake in a diary. Fill your bedroom walls and ceiling with images, and painted artworks that might help you relax. Read your favourite novels, and listen to soothing songs before bedtime…Have healthy meals timely, and go to bed early!
Rosenberg, R. S. (2014). Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day: A Doctor’s Guide To Solving Your Sleep Problems. New York: Demos Health.