“Early to bed, early to rise, makes man healthy, wealthy and wise!” we all have heard of this phrase. But now a days, in this fast pace and busy life, we tend to ignore our much required sleep. We forget that sleep has a major role to play in our well-being. Getting right amount of sound sleep not only aids safeguarding our physical health but also psychological health.
A good quality sleep is extremely essential to maintain our health. Most of us think that it’s a way of relaxation. But it’s much more than that. It’s our body’s basic requirement and one of the most essential routine. One third of our day should be devoted to this activity. People may reduce sleep time, think¬ing it won’t be problematic, since other jobs may seem more important. Nonetheless, research suggests that during sleep, many important tasks are performed which support maintenance of good health and proper functioning of our body.
Even though the benefits of sleep are abundant, many of us may sacrifice our sleep in the bargain of other responsibilities such as work at home/office or spending time with friends/late night partying or activities such as using technology/watching TV, movies etc… The consequence of which is our health weakens.
Sleep and Mental Function:-
Sleep has a close relation with our mood. Let’s say, if we don’t get a good night’s sleep, the next day we won’t feel fresh enough and thus start getting irritable, sad, cranky. Imagine, if someone has undergone several sleepless nights, it may lead to long term mood problems for him.
It’s also seen that people who get sound sleep are more jovial. It aids us to be attentive, creative and helps in decision making.
Studies show that a good night's sleep improves learning ability. It applies to any situation such as learning and solving mathematical problems, learning how to play a new game or a sport or how to play a musical instrument. Thus, sleep aids improving our problem-solving skills.
Less sleep results in decreased alertness. Researchers say that chronic lack of sleep may also result in depression.
Sleep and Lifestyle disorders/diseases:-
1. Weight gain (obesity):-
Many studies have shown a relationship between insufficient sleep and weight gain. A study revealed that people who don’t get sufficient sleep, basically, those who sleep less than six hours at night are more likely to have higher BMIs as compared to those who have 8 hours of sleep. The study revealed the people who get 8 hours of sleep had the lowest BMIs (body mass index).
There are some mechanisms as to why this must be happening. One of which is associated with stress hormones. Reduced sleep leads to increased stress. In this condition, there is secretion of a stress hormone called cortisol. If this hormone remains high in the blood for a long time or the instances of its higher amount in the blood are too often, it may lead to obesity.
Reduced sleep also causes increased release of insulin which in turn causes more fat accumulation.
Sleeping less also causes increased appetite and increased hunger which indirectly relates to over eating and thus weight gain.
2. High Blood Sugars and Diabetes: -
Decreased sleep also causes insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone which helps in clearing sugar from the blood. Decrease in sleep interferes with the ability of cells to sense insulin. As a result of which sugar is not cleared from the blood in the time it should be normally. This leads to dual problem of high sugar levels which is the leading cause of diabetes and also, extra insulin keeps on secreting and blood insulin levels also increase as the blood cells are resistant to sense insulin. Thus again excess fat accumulation in the body occurs leading to unhealthy weight gain and obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes.
Whereas, adequate sleep improves insulin sensitivity and thus is helpful to avoid the risk of this deadly disease.
3. Heart Disease: -
Sleeping less is also related to conditions which may lead to heart disease. It is association which high bad cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure.
To avoid all the above diseases and disorders and to achieve its benefits, embrace sleeping. Getting 7 – 8 hours of sound sleep a day is considered healthy for most adults.
If you are finding it difficult to sleep, here are some effective ways of getting a good night’s sleep:-
1. Gadget free Bedroom: - Keep yourself free from technology and gadgets such as your mobile, tablet, laptop, video game player, television etc. when you hit the bed. Engaging in these and the exposure to bright light from them late at night may keep you awake for a long time.
2. Avoid consuming foods or beverages close to bedtime that may keep you awake for longer time. Beverages such as coffee, tea, alcohol, soft drinks and foods such as chocolates are believed to be stimulants and hence should be avoided close to sleep time.
3. Early dinner helps! Have dinner at least 2 hours before going to sleep. Eating late meals may cause discomfort in stomach when you lie down. This feeling of discomfort may disturb your sleep.
4. Exercise regularly: - Exercising will not only help you get fit but also help you sleep better at night. For best results exercise during day time or before dinner time. Avoid exercising after dinner. Exercising may increase alertness and refreshes you instead of immediately inducing sleep.
5. No smoking: - Avoid smoking before sleeping. Nicotine is again a stimulant and may give you hard time falling asleep.
6. Set your own bed time and wake up time: - Maintaining bed and wake up time on all days will help your natural body clock to identify the time to fall asleep and when to wake up. For e.g. there is a great possibility that if you practice and wake up at 6 pm regularly for 15 days or a month, your body clock will naturally adjust itself and wake you up at 6 am. Similarly you may fall asleep close to your practiced bed time as well!
7. Comfortable bedding and atmosphere helps: - Select and purchase such mattresses, pillows and bed sheets in which you are comfortable sleeping. Slip into comfortable clothes at night. Adjust the temperature of the room which suits you. It is believed that cool, dark and quite atmosphere is great for getting a sound sleep.
8. Consult your doctor or a sleep specialist if you have sleep problems.