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Improving sleep hygiene may keep sleep disorders at bay

We all are aware of the fact that a good night’s sleep of 6 to 8 hours is essential to the physical and mental well being of every individual. However, in the fast-paced, gadget-crowded lives that we are all leading, sleep is eluding more and more human beings.

Healthy sleep habits

The result is an increasing number of sleep disorders every year that result in dreadful accidents at times or lead to more serious health problems such as heart conditions, high blood pressure that can in turn lead up to a stroke. 60% of adults across the globe suffer from varying degrees of sleeping disorders that often go undiagnosed and undetected.

The fundamental solution to this ever-increasing problem of the modern world, is to aim to get better rest and improve the quality of sleep. Small but mindful steps towards change can help address the issue of sleep disorders to a great extent.

Let’s take a closer look at some healthy sleep habits that can be inculcated with just a bit of effort.

If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, the first step to address this issue is to be on top of your sleep schedule. Here is how.

Decide on a sleep schedule

The first step is to decide is how much of sleep you believe you need (for an adult this is between 6 to 8 hours) to feel adequately rested and fix a wake-up time. The next step is to work backwards and fix a bedtime accordingly. Once you have arrived at the bedtime and wake up time stick to this schedule without any exceptions.

Changing this schedule over the weekend is avoidable as it has a negative impact on the body clock.When you do need to change your sleep schedule due to unavoidable circumstances, try making a gradual shift over time with a time difference of 1-2 hours of your original bedtime. This allows to body to acclimatise to the change gradually thus keeping you well rested. On the other hand, erratic changes in your sleep schedule may lead to sleep deprivation.

The other thing is to be mindful of while deciding your sleep schedule is budgeting naps. If you are in the habit of taking naps during the day, bear in mind that a long nap has the potential to throw your sleep schedule off track. If you do indeed wish to take a  day-time nap, the best time for it is post-lunch for not more than half hour.

Develop a bedtime routine

If you have trouble falling asleep, do not think that the problem begins only when you touch your head to the pillow. Several habits and the lack of bedtime routine makes it difficult to deal with sleep disorders. The best solution to this is to develop a bedtime routine just like you did as a child! The central idea behind this is to signal to both your body and mind that it is time to relax and slow down.

A bedtime routine may include taking a leisurely stroll, meditation, or yoga (especially breathing exercises if you are suffering from sleep apnea) taking a warm bath, reading and listening to music. The one thing that cannot be stressed enough at this stage is the need to completely disconnect from all devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Resist the urge to scroll up and down social media sites while in bed. The blue light emitted from handheld devices messes with the circadian rhythm or our body clocks, in effect signalling that it is daytime. As a result, our minds remain alert and we find it difficult to go to sleep. In fact, you may consider removal of all electronic devices from the bedroom and restrict it to sleeping and sex to improve sleep hygiene.

Inculcate good day time habits

Having trouble sleeping at night? Did you know everything from your diet, caffeine and alcohol intake may be adding to your worries. Here are some good day time habits to consider to improve your quality and duration of sleep.

Healthy sleep habits

  • Keep a watch on the diet- If you are suffering from a sleep disorder of any sort, pay attention to your diet. Cut out all sugary processed foods and drinks and replace them with fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and lean meats. Also ensure that you are eating your meals on time and not eating very close to mealtimes. It is all the more difficult to fall asleep at night, if your body is still digesting a big dinner.
  • Be mindful of caffeine intake- Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and sodas, are very popular around the world and are consumed widely by people especially when they feel sleep deprived and have to keep working. The next thing you know they are glugging down mugs of coffee during the day that over time becomes a barrier in falling asleep.
  • Stay away from alcohol-The other cardinal mistake is the consumption of alcohol closer to bedtime because it induces a feeling of drowsiness. But what it does in effect is lower the quality of sleep. Alcohol is thus best avoided as it gets closer to bedtime.
  • Get daily exercise- Exercise and sleep too have a strong connection. A daily exercise regime followed over time can help you address sleep issues to a large extent. While there is no fixed time to exercise, avoid exercising when it is close to bedtime. This is because, the temperature of our body rises when we exercise. On the other hand, as the evening progresses into night, our body temperature is meant to cool down and induce sleepiness. Exercising at night essentially resets and confuses the body clock and leads to sleep deprivation rather than helping you sleep.

If none of these above-mentioned solutions are working for you, the time may be ripe to consult a doctor and opt for CPAP or continuous airway pressure therapy through a mask or other wearable devices. Seeking medical opinion is highly recommended to avoid other health complications.