Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to our bodies and minds, akin to formatting a computer. Our brain is a super-computer which continuously creates thoughts. Constant thinking drains the brain battery and sleep gives the brain the rest that it sorely needs. Sleeping well daily is very important especially during periods of stress. Sleep plays an important role in memory, abstract thinking, decision making, mood, and control of irritability. It is also important for immune function. Sleeplessness can reduce the immune function and lead to susceptibility to various infections.
Dr. Michael Breus, Diplomate, and Fellow of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and author of Beauty Sleep says, it is very important to create a sleep schedule which means, pick a bedtime and a wake up time each day. Even if someone doesn’t fall asleep at the right time, he or she should still wake up at the designated wake time to stick to the sleep schedule. Sleep hygiene measures as mentioned below should be followed for good sleep:
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
- Exercise regularly to promote good quality sleep. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercises, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve the quality of sleep at night.
- Avoid heavy/rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks especially for dinner. It can trigger indigestion in some people, which could lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep.
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. Exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. A regular nightly routine helps the body recognize that it is bedtime. This could include taking warm shower or bath, reading a book, or light stretches.
- Take a power nap in the afternoon: a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help improve mood, alertness, and performance.
- Whenever possible, try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before attempting to sleep.
- Make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant. Mattress and pillows should be comfortable. The bedroom should be cool – between 60 -67 degrees, for optimal sleep. A bright light from lamps, cell phone, and TV screens can make it difficult to fall asleep, so turn those light off or adjust them when possible. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices that can make the bedroom more relaxing.
Aster Speciality Clinic, International City