Sleep like nutrition is the basic determinant of healthy well being. Nothing is as frustrating as waking up in the morning unrefreshed, fatigued and with tiredness. Lack of sleep can not only make a person irritated and grumpy but can also affect his looks, health, ability to concentrate, problem solving, memory and even his sex life. Troubles start shooting up both at workplace and home. Chronic sleep loss can lead to risk of high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, irregular heart beat and even diabetes. Moreover, sleep is required both for physical repair (like organ cleansing or muscles repair) and psychological repair (like working for learning, thinking, anxiety etc). Therefore, sleep becomes very essential in our daily routine. The practice of sleep hygiene becomes integral in our day to day life. Sleep hygiene is the different habits that one can adopt which can help to ensure good effective sleep at night and with day time alertness. In fact, the best way to ensure sleep hygiene is to maintain a regular timing to go to bed throughout the week.
Natural sleep pattern typically consist of rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). In a healthy adult, both REM and NREM sleep follow an alternate cyclical order. Ideally, an adult should sleep on an average for seven to eight hours. Within this time, body gets enough time for both physical and psychological repair. There is both body' physical and mental recuperation during sleeping only to restart again when morning comes. Adequate amount of sleep can help the body to fight infection, work effectively with complete alertness, perform well in one's activities and even support metabolism of sugar and help to prevent diabetes. Apart from health problems, sleep loss can be so serious that it can make you forgetful (affect thinking), aggravate depression, aging faster (skin becomes lustreless and dark circles), obesity (effect on hunger and appetite), sleep related breathing problems like sleep apnoea (repeated episodes of cessation of breathing during sleep) and even increases the risk of death (double the risk of cardiovascular deaths). In case of children, it is the basic necessity for growth and development. The importance of sleep hygiene, therefore, becomes very essential for each one of us.
Good sleep hygiene methods helps a person to get his good night sleep which is uninterrupted, deep sleep for 7-8 hours which refreshes one's mind and body. Sleep hygiene methods become very important also to prevent poor sleep pattern and other sleep disorders. Normally, every person has his own internal clock which influences his sleep pattern. But sleep pattern can also be influenced by factors like age, sleep history (the amount of sleep in recent days), wakefulness, behaviours like exercise, stress and environmental factors like light and temperature. So, a person should follow a regular sleep pattern by routinely maintaining his sleeping and waking up schedule. Regular sleep pattern helps a person's body to maintain his biological clock and allows him to remain alert during day and urges him to sleep at the appropriate night time. Daytime sleepiness and sleep disturbances are known to people with poor sleep hygiene.
Various good sleep hygiene practices have been recommended by Physicians. But, we should know what work best for us. The aim of practicing sleep hygiene is to bring good sleep naturally during bedtime. Our bedtime should mean a time for complete relaxation, so we should never bring problems to bed and avoid any emotional upsetting situation. Bed should be meant only to sleep, not to read, do office work or even watch TV. Watching TV during bedtime should be avoided as this can activate our mind. We need to follow a daily exercise routine, like doing heavy exercise or vigorous physical activity only during daytime; Yoga or light relaxation can be done just before going to bed to reduce stress. Avoiding large meals, caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime is necessary as they can disrupt sleep. Maintaining a sleep environment which is quiet, comfortable, least distraction and minimum light can help to ensure quick sleep. We need to develop a sleep ritual before bedtime. Different rituals can work for different people. Like listening to a light music or taking a warm shower can help in falling asleep. Shower can lower our body temperature and make us cool which can help us to fall asleep. Doing a bit of relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercise or yoga or even reading a book for a short time can prepare our body to relax, reduce anxiety and help in falling sleep. Day time nap should be usually avoided. If one is habituated to take a daytime nap, then it should not exceed to more than 30 mins or so. Long day time nap can lead to fatigue and lethargy and disturbed sleep at night time. The best sleep positions recommended are the back and side positions. These positions are good as they help to maintain a neutral position with the spine, prevent back and neck pain, reduces acid reflux and even minimizes wrinkles. Not so ideal sleeping positions like stomach position and foetal position (curled up) cannot maintain neutral position with the spine which can lead to pressure on joints and muscles, irritate nerves and hence can cause body pain, tingling and numbness. But stomach position can be good for someone who snores during sleep as this position can help to keep the airway open.
No human being can live without mind and body rest for a longer time. Hence, sleeping is natural and is basic requirement for health and well being like nutrition. Prolong sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems so it is better to approach a professional to help us deal with it. We need to adopt our own daily sleep schedule by maintaining sleep hygiene which works best for us. Therefore, it is indispensable to adopt a good sleep hygiene method to ensure a long deep sleep at night and prepare us for a hard working day ahead.
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A Medical Professional who likes writing on health related issues.