Sleep your way to a healthy life!

  • By Dr. T Deepa Porkodi

The human body requires its quota of rest every day. Sleeping in the night, undisturbed and peacefully, for a minimum of 7-8 hours is a necessity. Yet most of us treat this basic need of our body as a luxury and end up suffering from a wide array of diseases. Lack of sleep, sleep disturbances and trouble falling asleep at night are serious disorders that often end up being unnoticed and untreated.

Occasional instances do not matter, it is the chronic occurrence that leads to serious health disorders like high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, lowering of the body’s immunity, etc.

Sleep deprivation affects all the organs, the heart being the most important of them all.

The bad effects of not sleeping well on the heart are equal to that of smoking. As per the studies conducted at a university in the Netherlands, people who slept well at night had a 22% less chance of developing heart diseases.

This finding supports the claim to put inadequate sleep as one of the risk factors for developing heart diseases. People with sleep disturbances are also at a risk of developing hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.

Here are a few reasons why you should never miss out on your sleep

  1. Remember better: You find that sleeping well before an exam helps you remember things better. Poor sleepers have trouble remembering things. This is because your body and mind work together to ‘process’ all that you have learnt in a day. So sleep well for a great memory.
  2. Live longer: Sleep and ageing have a definite relationship, though whether it is a cause-effect relationship is not known. People who sleep well are the ones with a happy and long life!
  3. Heart of the matter: People who sleep for less than 5 hours a day were found to have high levels of C-reactive proteins in their blood. This protein is responsible for inflaming the heart tissues and leading to several heart diseases.
  4. Be creative: The time when you sleep is the time when the brain can do its work quietly without disturbances. It processes the memories, rearranges them and gives them a pattern to your thoughts. So when you wake up refreshed, you feel your creative juices flowing!
  5. Lose weight: If you are on a weight loss programme, hitting the gym and eating right isn’t enough. You need to sleep well too. The sleep and hunger centers are located close together in the brain and the same set of hormones trigger both the centers. So when you stay awake at night because you are unable to sleep, you tend to eat more junk and end up gaining a lot of weight!
  6. Beats the stress: Sleeping relaxes all the muscles of the body. It causes the tension and stress to melt away from your body and when you wake up in the morning, you feel fresh and energized and ready to take on the world. With reduction in the stress levels, you also successfully keep several chronic diseases at bay!
  7. Sleep and drive: Yes. More than alcohol, it has been found that sleep is the major cause for fatal accidents on the road. When you don’t get the required amounts of sleep, the brain doesn’t function effectively. Sleeplessness affects your reflexes, decision making powers and reaction time. So one night of sleeplessness and driving is equal to drunken driving!
  8. Look good: The lifestyle we lead today, with all the amount of stress involved, takes a heavy toll on our bodies. We end up with wrinkles and fine lines around the eyes, dark circles, grey hair, etc. All this can be avoided by a single night od good sleep daily. Little wonder then, it is called as ‘beauty sleep’.
  9. Beat depression: A good night’s sleep helps to stabilize our emotions. It reduces the anxiety levels, makes us less irritable and moody.

Tips for a Good Sleep:

  1. Stop the caffeine: That you are supposed to avoid coffee or tea before bed-time is a fact that you know very well. But you should know that coffee and tea and any energy boosting drink had in the afternoon will still have their effect till the evening. So avoid such drinks after lunch, so that their effects wear off by bedtime.
  2. Wine and dine: Out for a dinner with your loved one? Go easy on the wine. Alcohol has a negative effect on the second half of the sleep cycle. So you may sleep well initially, but then you may find yourself wide awake later in the night.
  3. Sleep friendly food: Eat food rich in proteins, the tryptophan in the proteins helps promote good sleep by booting the activity of serotonin, the sleep and relaxing enzyme.
  4. Time a bath: Most people would advise going to sleep right after a hot bath. Do not do that as it may hamper your sleep. Your body needs to cool down before it can settle to sleep. So take a bath atleast 30 minutes before you turn in.
  5. Set the right mood: Keep your room dark. Putting on the lights send the ‘day’ signal to your biological clock and you may find it hard to sleep. Putting on soft instrumental music sets the right tone for sleep.

Sleeping is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep a lot of diseases at bay. Sleep right, Stay Healthy!!