There is a common saying, ‘nothing is better than a good night’s sleep. Sleep is crucial for our healthy daily routine cycle. A night of good quality sleep is equally essential to our good health as a nutritious diet and physical activity.
Sleep is less physical activity and minimal sensory awareness. Many areas of our brain (Pons, Thalamus, and Hypothalamus) are responsible for maintaining our sleep cycles.
Importance of good sleep
Good sleep is crucial for our healthy lifestyle. But, it is often neglected and impacts our everyday life. Sleep can affect our quality of life in many ways:
- Enough sleep can boost our immune system to fight against many illnesses such as cold and flu.
- Sleep can affect our efficiency of performing any work.
- If we don’ get enough sleep, our body produces a hormone (ghrelin) that stimulates appetite. This extra eating may lead to weight gain and obesity.
- Lack of sleep activates stress hormone (cortisol) in our body that is harmful to our heart health. So, a healthy sleep strengthens our hearts.
- Good sleep improves concentration and cognitive functions. These are responsible for higher productivity in school or work areas.
- If we get sufficient sleep, we wake up fully rested and better mood.
- If we get enough sleep, our mind also rests properly and functions better in restoring memories. Thus if we lack sleep, we become forgetful and cannot remember particular incidences.
- Sufficient sleep can increase our daily activity performances like cooking, playing and interaction with kids, exercising, and many more.
- Children secrete the human growth hormone (HGH) during sleep. HGH helps in the child’s body growth.
How much sleep do we need?
- Getting enough sleep does not only about total hours of sleep. But, is a good quality of sleep, means when we wake up, we feel fresh.
- Most adults need 6 to 8 hours of good quality sleep daily.
- Newborns sleep most of the time, as they need at least 14 to 18 hours of sleep in a day.
- Toddlers and preschoolers need 10 to 14 hours of sleep in a day.
- School-going children and teens need at least 9 to 12 hours of good quality sleep.
Effects of lack of sleep
Even one night without sleep, we feel tired, moody, and irritated the next day. Long-term sleep deprivation has many harmful effects on our body:
- Mood swings
- Always feels tired, irritated, and frequent yawning
- Negatively impact on short and long-term memories
- Weaken immune system
- Increase risk of higher blood sugar levels
- Higher risk of increased blood pressure and heart diseases
- Lack of coordination and balance makes you prone to fall
- Weight gain
- Feeling drowsy during the day can sometimes cause accidents and physical injuries.
- Impacts on concentration, creativity, and problem-solving skills
- Lower libido
- Risk of psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, mania, and bipolar mood disorder
How to improve sleep quality
Poor sleep can be a cause of many diseases. Sometimes, we consider our sleep deprivation a disorder and concentrate on taking medications to improve our sleep. But, by changing some habits, we can improve our sleep quality:
- A well-ventilated room can improve sleep quality as closed and small space leads to poor air quality. If you do not have a well-ventilated room, using many purifying devices can improve indoor air quality.
- You can change the room ambiance by adjusting temperature and humidity levels according to your body’s necessity.
- Avoid any noises while sleeping. Low-frequency noises may also increase the time to fall asleep. And we feel tired after waking up the next day.
- Avoid some food (sugary beverages, caffeine-rich drinks, and fruits) before bed as they energize our body, and falling asleep becomes difficult.
- Avoid alcohol as it affects the quality of our sleep.
- We should always eat dinner light and try to have it 2 to 3 hours before bed.
- We should not indulge in electronic devices such as mobile, tablets, or computers during sleep time. The rays coming from the screen reduce the melatonin release and interrupt our sleep. Instead of spending time screen viewing, you should read some books.
- We should include many types of exercise in our daily activities. Exercises such as walking, swimming, dancing, yoga, sports, and many more, increase the quality of our sleep.
- We should clear our minds before going to bed.
- Initiate a healthy bedtime routine such as setting a particular time to sleep, book reading, or meditation before bed. These habits improve the quality of our sleep.
- We should not neglect minor factors like mattress quality, pillow, linen fabric, and comfortable blanket.
With these simple modifications, we can improve the quality and duration of our sleep. But, if you are facing problems in falling asleep or waking up frequently that hinder your daily performance, consult a physician immediately.
Dr. Nitin Rathi, Senior Consultant – Pulmonology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi