The Secret to a Good Night’s Sleep
Written by: Dr. Anurag Singh
Many people suffer from the lack of good sleep, either due an unhealthy lifestyle or due to various conditions (viz insomnia). Little do people know that more effective and potent than medications available for sleep
(sleeping pills) are a few techniques in life style modification which are at-least as effective as sleeping pills (if not more) but have a lifelong impact with no side-effects.
These lifestyle modification techniques are also called as sleep hygiene (mixed with some common sense). If practiced with persistence one can achieve the desired sleep pattern and quality.
(1) Respect the Bed
The bed is supposed to be the place where you go only to sleep (apart from making out with your significant other). Lounging in bed, eating, reading books while lying on the bed should be avoided at all times.
The Golden Rule is " Don’t lounge in the bed "
The aim is to train the sub-conscious mind the minute you lie down on the bed that, it’s the time to sleep. This can be done when the bed is used only to sleep
The environment that you surround yourself when you go to sleep is very critical and conducive to a good night’s sleep. The mattress should be firm & not soft (like you see in the advertisements)
In case you prefer to have the light’s on while you go to sleep, make sure that they are dim or you should have a night lamp. Listening to soft, soothing, relaxing music also does aid in feeling sleepy
Following a strict sleep routine is one the corner stone in Good sleep hygiene.
The time you get up (even on holidays) should be fixed no matter what time you when to sleep. If you get up at 7:00 am make sure that you do so every day, even if you went to bed the night before at 3 in the morning.
Many individuals have a difficulty in going to sleep. In case one is unable to sleep (while lying on the bed) after a period of 30 minutes to 1 hour, one should try to get up and do something else. And go back to bed only when one feels sleepy. But the time you get up (like stressed before) should always be fixed.
Getting a warm bath before going to bed every-day is also an effective strategy to tell your mind that it the time to sleep.
(4) Read a Book
Perhaps the best sleep medication that ever could be prescribed would be to read a book.
Reading a book just before going to bed helps stimulate sleep.
But don't read the book while lying in the bed. Reading a book can help you relax and prepare for the sleep. Best kinds of books are the ones in the fiction genre, with that said avoid books that agitate your Grey cells. Preferably keep your reading light. Short stories are also a great idea.
(5) Get up and Exercise
It’s recommended that people with sleep disturbance indulge themselves in exercise in the morning. Exercising will also improve you fitness and moral apart from helping you sleep at night. Exercising in the evening should be avoided as it could have the reverse effect.
(6) Do you drink Coffee ?
Drinking tea, coffee and other beverages after 6:00 Pm should be avoided! These beverages contain stimulatory agents which delay the onset of sleep. In case you happen to be a coffee junkie, try to reduce the total number of cups that you have per day.
(7) Alcohol as a sleeping pill
Some people abuse alcohol and use it as an aid in sleeping. This method is one of the most devastating ones in the long term both for health and sleep. Alcohol causes sleep to be fragmented apart from causing grave harm to the body. Small amount of alcohol (eg: a glass of wine with food) don’t cause most people to be drowsy.
In case you use alcohol to fall asleep, please consult a doctor immediately!
(8) Avoid Afternoon Naps
Afternoon naps are very effective way to rejuvenate and get a fresh start. But only for people with normal sleep patterns. For ones with difficulty in sleeping at night, afternoon naps should be avoided. If you feel too drained and low in energy levels in the afternoon a just can’t do without that afternoon siesta, make sure to keep it snappy 15-30 minutes.
(9) Avoid Stress
Stress and anxiety related to personal or professional issues can also be a cause for problems with sleep. One should try to first find out if there is a stress which keeps the mind pre-occupied. Trying to avoid stress , indulging in fun activities and diverting the mind can be effective strategies to reduce the stress and thus improve sleep. A lot of people find solace in stress busting exercise and resort to yoga and meditation for the same.
(10) Seek a doctor
Most people will see immediate benefits from maintaining strict sleep hygiene. If followed religiously sleep hygiene alone is at-least as effective as sleeping pills. In case you still have problems going to sleep or have never consulted a doctor before, you should do so without hesitation.
Making a sleep diary which contains the log of the time you went to bed, feel asleep and got up (minimum 10 days duration) can greatly help the doctor.
Many times sleep problems can be due to depression or some other conditions that require an evaluation by a doctor. Common specific sleep disorders are insomnia and delayed sleep phase syndrome.