Having started the day on full throttle, the everyday soldier now returns home with the battery quite discharged. Home being haven, you are now looking for some well deserved rest and relaxation. While sleep is the last item on our agenda, it is perhaps one of our healthiest habits. Considering that we spend one third of our lives in sleep (that’s right, one third!), it surely is important. Repair, healing and clearing of unconscious emotional conflicts all happen during sleep.
Sleep has two states alternating with each other through the night. Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep with high physiological activity and Non Rapid Eye Movement or NREM sleep which is a peaceful state with lowered physiological activity. REM sleep is when you dream and remember your dreams, which are usually symbolic in nature. NREM sleep is deep sleep where the body rests and heals. Short sleepers require less than six hours of sleep and are considered to be energetic and efficient. Long sleepers need over nine hours of sleep and are said to be a little lethargic. Mahatma Gandhi and Napoleon were short sleepers while Einstein on the other hand was a long sleeper. In any case, it is not only important how long you sleep, but how well you sleep. More important though is, how refreshed you are when you wake up.
Sleeping at Night
Day time sleep is physiologically different from the night’s undisturbed, rested sleep. Our biological clock is tuned to sleeping at night. Globalisation of business has resulted in 24 hour communication, making MNC professionals be accessible day and night on the email and mobile. International air travel is now almost as frequent as domestic. Also, India’s becoming a major player in the IT, ITES sectors have shifted sleep from night to the day time. A 24×7 work culture has changed people’s sleep–wake cycles. These factors may take longe to neutralise but can and must be managed. If not managed, the early changes could be irritability, lethargy and fatigue. And if sleep deprivation is prolonged, disorientation, delusions, hallucinations and ego disorganisation may be seen. There are other factors ranging from the easy-to-fix alcohol, tobacco or heavy dinner to change in routine and old age that cause people to sleep less. Physical ailments and mental illnesses are also known to interfere with sleep.
12 Rules of Sleep Hygiene
How can one continue to work and live as required and still get good sleep? It’s not easy, but definitely not impossible. Follow these rules of sleep hygiene:
Keep your sleep–wake timing fixed and regular: Those of you who work at night must sleep in the day at the same time and wake up at the same fixed time, daily. Irregular timing is known to confuse the circadian sleep cycle (also known as the body clock). Similarly, those of you who sleep at night must fix a particular time to finish your pre-sleep wash, change and other rituals, get to bed, fall off to sleep and a fixed time to wake up.
A siesta is not an absolute necessity: A short afternoon nap may help you recover from a bad night. But if you have a problem going to sleep at night, avoid that afternoon nap.
Use your bedroom and bed only for relaxation: Working, eating, talking, arguing, and fighting should all be kept outside.
Following a sleep ritual of bath, brushing teeth, moisturising face, brushing hair, prayer etc, help you unwind before you drop into bed.
Children sleep better with cuddly toys in bed, pet in the room, a night lamp, their door slightly open etc. They feel safe and secure making them sleep well. A warm glass of milk and a warm bath make you feel relaxed and aid in sleep.
Coffee and cigarettes are stimulants, best avoided at bed time. Alcohol in large quantities is also a deterrent.
The decor and ambience of your room must be comforting: Take care with colour schemes, lights, sound, privacy, furniture and even your mattress and pillow.
The temperature must be right: Too warm and you may wake up perspiring, thirsty and uncomfortable. Too cold and you will wake up shivering. The room must also be airy, clean and well dusted.
Regular exercise improves sleep: But vigorous exercise at bedtime acts like a stimulant. Exercise is best in the morning or evening.
A heavy stomach will only interfere with sleep: So make sure your dinner is light and at least two hours before bedtime.
If trips to the toilet break your sleep cycle, avoid drinking water a few hours before bedtime. And finally, if you are not sleeping in spite of all your efforts, quit trying. Get up from your bed; try reading (not TV) and then attempt to sleep again. Tossing and turning (and not succeeding) creates conditions of panic, further affecting sleep.