We live in a world where people are applauded for ‘busyness’ and most of us burn the candle at both ends we don’t sleep nearly enough at night and toil away during the day trying to meet the demands at work. Our chronically sleep deprived world reinforces coffee culture and if you look around you, you’ll see most people are getting by on 4 cups of espressos or foamy white lattes just to get through the day. It’s no surprise that when night time comes, you are unable to fall asleep on time because of the way that caffeine wires your brain and affects the nervous system. One day of sleeping late or pulling an all-nighter isn’t going to affect you adversely, but months of neglected sleep will impact your hormones, derail your fitness goals, slow your metabolism and predispose you to a plethora of lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
After we go to bed, the cells in our body start to work overtime to heal and repair damaged cells, fight inflammation from free radical damage and allow relaxation to the nervous system that governs the heartbeat and our ‘fight or flight’ system. Our bodies need adequate sleep to support immune function, fight disease, improve overall well being and enhance longevity.
A study conducted in the longevity village of the Okinawa region in Japan found that there was a clear link between the wellbeing of the elderly and good sleep hygiene. In fact, they found that the group that slept well ended up walking more, having healthier social ties, eating more fish and seaweed and demonstrating better health overall. So we hope this should serve as a reinforcement for you to get to bed at a decent time on most nights.
In the meanwhile, here are some easy ways to improve your sleep hygiene and fall asleep with ease:
1. ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
For people struggling with insomnia or disturbed sleep, often carving out an evening ritual really helps prime
the body and mind for bedtime. Some people swear by brewing a caffeine-free herbal tea like dandelion or chamomile, while others like to have milk- as the tryptophan in the milk promotes better sleep. The idea is, that you carve an evening ritual that will signal your body into thinking ‘its time for bed’. In the weeks that follow, you will feel that the ‘ritual’ will serve as a cue and your body will start to de-stress, relax frayed nerves and get ready for bedtime.
2. DO AWAY WITH THE SCREENS
The blue light that your devices emit block the absorption of melatonin- the hormone responsible for regulating sleep rhythm in the body. Dr Kiran Sethi Lohia, a Delhi based celebrity dermatologist suggests that you do away with screens at least two hours before bedtime every night. If you must, read a book when you are in bed. It might be worth looking into downloading an app called f.lux to block the blue light coming from your gadgets. Other things that people can try are removing all electronic devices from the bedroom and switching off all fluorescent lights that may impact or hinder the production of melatonin in the body.
3. GO TO SLEEP AT THE SAME TIME
Our bodies are creatures of habit and thrive well in a routine. A really effective way to take control over your
sleep quality is to try and go to bed and to wake up at the same time every day. This routine, builds consistency, and allows your body to instinctively relax when you are inching closer to bedtime, says Dr Alok Sarin, consultant psychiatrist for Sitaram Bhartiya Hospital, Delhi. Whenever possible, try and wake up, naturally, without the use of an alarm clock to ensure your body has got adequate rest.
4. AVOID CAFFEINATED DRINKS POST 2 PM
While the Italians are known to drink espressos even in the evening and fall asleep with ease, caffeine works differently for all of us since our bodies are unique. A good tip would be to taper your caffeine consumption or limit it to 2 pm. Yes, this includes coffee, green tea, chocolate and cola and aerated drinks as they all contain caffeine. If you absolutely must, try a herbal tea or a medicinal mushroom tea as some of them contain herbs that promote sleep and relax nerves.
If your mind is in a flurry, jumping from one thought to the next, unable to calm down- chances are you’ll be
up counting sheep for a very long time. Progressive relaxation techniques are very effective at improving sleep quality and enhancing sleep function. A daily breathwork practice might prove very beneficial in making you more mindful and priming your mind for sleep, while others might choose to listen to relaxing music or do some restorative yoga. Remember what works for you might not work for everyone, so take the time to get to know your body better and allow it whatever it needs to relax and de-stress before bedtime.
We hope these tips will have you sleeping soundly in no time. Here’s a short clip that might help you relax after a long day –