By Uma maheswari K and Ruby Joseph
Sleep has indeed become a forgotten instinct that needs to be re-learnt in the modern day 24 x7 world. The importance of sleep is taught right from the toddler stage wherein Benjamin Franklin’s quote ‘’ Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’’ is taught as a nursery rhyme. However, as we age, we tend to undermine the importance of sleep. One needs at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep in the night to provide rest to all organs, facilitate repair and growth, and to improve memory and cognition.
Our body is like an orchestra where all systems work in harmony with themselves and with the environment. The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by the release of a chemical substance, melatonin from the pineal gland in response to internal signals from the ‘master clock’ within the brain and external cues like light. Sleep onset is also influenced by external factors other than light like ambient temperature, exercise, eating and drinking. The light-dark cycle and sleep-wake cycle are thus synchronized to maintain a harmony in an ecosystem when all living beings work during the day and sleep at night. However, with industrialization and technological advances the sleep-wake cycle was the one of the first essential bodily function to be severely disrupted.
So, how do we restore regular sleep and normalize the sleep- wake cycle? A few ‘sleep hygiene’ tips are listed below:
First and foremost, we should allow our body to recognize the natural cues as night approaches. This can be achieved by adopting measures to reduce white and blue light exposure as the evening progresses; some of which include avoiding gadget (laptops, tablets, smartphones, television) use 1-1.5 hours prior to bedtime and using dimmers to reduce the intensity of light from bulbs and other artificial light sources.
Other components of good sleep hygiene are: abstaining from having caffeinated drinks for at least 5-6 hours prior to bedtime, light exercise in the early evening, avoiding fat rich food for dinner, having dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime, a warm shower and a glass of milk prior to bedtime and reserving the bedroom only for sleep and not for any other activity that leads to light exposure or mental stimulation. Maintaining regular sleep and wake times during workdays as well as weekends also improves sleep quality and sense of overall well-being.
Lack of adequate duration and/or quality of sleep can result in poor performance at work, increased propensity for accidents and many lifestyle related illnesses like hypertension and obesity. So, let us pledge to restore regular and good quality sleep for ourselves to ensure a healthy and productive future.
About the author
Uma maheswari- Professor, Pulmonary medicine, St.John’s Medical College, Bangalore
Ruby Joseph- Senior Resident, Pulmonary Medicine St.John’s Medical College, Bangalore