Ever wondered how your work-life imbalance, severe academic pressures, social stress, peer pressure, unsatisfactory relationships, uncomfortable family structures and so on affect your sleeping pattern?
If you still haven’t thought about it, then it’s probably time you start paying attention regarding your sleeping pattern. Interestingly, from choosing your right pillow to practicing yoga, research suggests that good sleep is an interplay of a lot of factors. Just as practicing yoga on a regular basis becomes an important factor to prolong the duration of sleep, factors like diet, stress levels, exercise, disorders and trauma can deeply affect your sleep, making it extremely short or longer than usual.
The disturbing trend
Ideally, humans must get about 8 hours of sleep. However, in reality, this is not an actual trend consistent among the individuals. Most of the people across the world don’t receive an adequate amount of sleep and therefore, suffer from minor and even severe sleep-related problems. This trend is perceived as disturbing not only by the people who have sleep problems, but also by the governments of various countries. This is because research from the Oxford University Press published in a journal called SLEEP, explains how the lack or insufficient amount of sleep can lead to serious “economic consequences. When individuals fail to function properly because of a severe lapse in attention, reduction in attention span, confusion, etc., then the nation also suffers.
Most common reasons for poor sleep
It’s common for people to receive inadequate sleep and it’s not a problem if you are one of them. But, one should always try to work out ways to get enough sleep.
Before trying to find out ways by which you can get proper sleep, it is important that you find about the reasons which prove as barriers to sleep well. People are different, and a variety of factors like genetics, environment, work-life, trauma and so on influence the sleeping patterns of people, but in an entirely different way. What might affect you, might not affect the other person. Every person is different and therefore needs to understand the factors which help him to sleep better.
There are some common reasons which make it difficult for people to get proper sleep.
- Anxiety issues: If you’re the kind of person who spends the entire day thinking about life choices, relationships, etc. then you probably won’t be able to sleep at night. Does thinking during the day affect your sleep at night? If yes, then your sleeplessness is due to anxiety issues. It’s okay if you can’t help it. But, it’s good to break that monotony today. Grab a book, read it! You’ll be able to doze off in a few minutes.
- Technology is bad: You might have heard a thousand times from your friends, mentors, parents and the elderly that technology is bad the overall functioning of your body. But, you might have ignored it a lot of times. However, it’s time you admit it. According to a research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2014, students (especially children) who leave their mobile phones, IPods and other electronic devices switched on during the night get less sleep than those who switch it off during the night. It is undeniable that the blue light which emits from the electronic devices greatly hampers the sleep of an individual. So, today, when you plan to get a good night sleep, make sure you switch off your electronic gadgets.
- Alcoholic Drinks: Do you know that consumption of alcohol interferes with your sleep? Well, it might feel like a good way of inducing sleep. People believe that consuming alcohol before going to bed make them dizzy and help them to sleep better. Instead, it fragments your sleep. It doesn’t allow you to get a proper sleep. So, avoid it as much as possible.
- Caffeine: Consuming caffeine in tea and coffee could be fine. But, one should never take it late in the afternoon as it can prevent you from falling asleep. Caffeine changes the physiology in such a manner that it causes people to skip sleep. Students who wish to study all night for the exams usually drink lots of coffee to remain awake. But, regular intake of caffeine at night or late in the afternoon is unadvisable.
- Bad bedroom environment: Where you sleep matters a lot. How well it is designed, whether it is free from any external disturbing elements, also matters. Factors like temperature (too hot or too cold), noise (coming from TV or from vehicles outside) lights (too much light), etc. can cause poor sleep. It has been proven in a study from the National Institutes of Health that participants who lowered the lights and noise managed to sleep well.
- Medical or psychological problems: Sometimes, things aren’t under our control. Some people are just not able to help but suffer from severe illnesses which don’t allow them to get proper sleep.
- For instance, people with ‘diabetes’ have the frequent urge to urinate which often causes them to sleep in fragments. The best remedy for it is to control your insulin levels. It is time to control your diabetes if you want to sleep well.
- ‘Kidney malfunction’ is also a common disease which causes a build-up of waste materials in the body of an individual. This greatly affects the sleep cycle and doesn’t allow people to take a proper sleep at night.
- ‘Breathlessness’ is an inability to breathe completely. People suffering from Asthma and other diseases of the lungs often fail to breathe properly, especially while lying down. This causes an inability to sleep properly and may result into insomnia.
How to Sleep Better
Fortunately, even though going back to a normal sleep pattern might take a little bit of time, it is possible. Most people with chronic illnesses and disabilities often fail to get cured. However, going back to getting normal and sufficient sleep is not that difficult.
Well, here is a list of some sleeping tips which can help you get a good night sleep. While advising others most people focus on ‘why sleep well’ while completely forgetting about ‘how to get to sleep’. We will provide some sleeping tips which will focus on how to get a better night sleep.
1) Try and have less exposure to light
Do you know that too much exposure to light triggers the production of melatonin in your body? Well, if you do not know, then you are probably missing out on the easiest remedies to get sufficient sleep. When you turn on the lights or even dim the lights at night, your body secretes melatonin which makes you alert and awake. But, when you switch off the lights at night, no melatonin is secreted and you feel sleepy and dizzy. So, you should always try to sleep in minimum amount of light to quickly fall asleep. Also, avoid watching late night television shows and movies.
2) Exercise and Yoga
Studies have shown that dancers, athletes and those who engage in regular physical exercise and meditation sleep better than those who do not. Haven’t you felt like going to bed after becoming really exhausted? That is pretty much obvious since the more tired you are, the more you feel in the need of a sleep. Vigorous exercise can give you greater benefits, but even less vigorous exercise can give you some amazing results.
3) Eat well, sleep well.
- Interestingly, consuming caffeine even during the late afternoon can disrupt your sleep pattern. You might be wondering the reasons for it.
- Research has shown that caffeine has a lasting effect on the brain and the body. It is so powerful that it can keep you awake for more than 8 hours. Smoking also has the same effect. If you engage in smoking before going to bed, then be ready for poor sleep at night.
- One really important thing which people ignore is the intake of fluids. While regular and sufficient intake of fluids is required and recommended during the daytime, any such intake is not advisable before going to bed. It is natural for people to drink too many fluids and then wake up after every 3 hours to go to the toilet. So, make your toilet tricks a little stronger.
- Avoid eating anything that can cause you heartburn and probably, an upset stomach which will interfere with your sleep.
4) Stress Management and Relaxation Techniques
- People who experience a lot of stress often end up having severe sleep problems which continue till middle-age and sometimes, even till old age. Therefore, it is really important to manage your stress levels, especially if you are a student or a youngster.
- Managing your stress can be really difficult, especially if you have a personality which doesn’t allow you to avoid thinking about certain issues over and over again. But, one easy way to do it is taking it as fun. Hang out with friends; engage in fun activities. Do things which distract you from worldly preoccupation.
- A massage at home can also relieve you from stress and pain from the workload. It definitely induces good sleep.
- Some people manage their stress by listening to music, taking a bath before going to bed or doing meditation. You should do any of these which you feel is feasible and best for you.
5) First Rule: Get comfortable
- It’s strange how some people fall on the sofa and sleep, while some are not able to sleep on their own bed. Find your comfortable spot. It might not necessarily be a well-made bed. But, if you really want to sleep on your own bed and get good sleep, then you must follow these good bedding tips.
- Buy mattresses that are comfortable, those which reduce the body pain. A research revealed that buying a new and good mattress reduce back and shoulder pain by 57% and 60% respectively, and therefore, helped in improving the quality of sleep by 60%.
6) Have Pills only when necessary
- It is not recommended to take sleeping pills, especially if the sleep-related problems are long-term. However, in case one is looking for a short-term solution to get good sleep, then pills could be an option. Beware! Of this habit or habit. In case you still want to consume them, you must seek medical advice from your doctor about sleeping pills and their side effect.
Sleep Disorders and their Treatments
‘Insomnia’, a condition in which a person experiences great difficulty in falling asleep, is pretty common nowadays. But, the treatments are also common. Psychology has made its mark in treating insomnia in people. A lot of behavioural approaches to psychology are used to treat people suffering from insomnia.
- Cognitive therapy: Allows a change in attitudes, perceptions and beliefs to induce better sleep.
- Stimulus control: Asks people suffering from insomnia to use their bed only for sleeping. Otherwise, they are encouraged to move out of their bed and to engage in any physical activity until they are completely exhausted.
- Relaxation Technique: Allows people to relax themselves to induce sleep.
Another condition is called ‘sleep apnea’ in which a person’s breathing is frequently interrupted when he/she is asleep. It is a serious condition causing breathlessness and therefore, interferes with good sleep at night.
So, all these disorders and factors can affect your sleep cycle, but there are a lot of ways to improve your sleep and even cure your sleeping disorders. All you need is a plan of action, a few important guidelines and a strong heart to create a change in you that you want to see. Look for the things to help you sleep better and start inculcating them in your routine. Problems can be sleep apnea and insomnia might take more time than usual to get cured, but stay focused. Sleeping well at night is essential. Go ahead and make it a priority. Good sleep will lead to good physical and mental which in turn, will ensure your overall well-being.
Think well, plan well, do well and sleep well.