Adequate Sleep for Overall Wellness
You may often lose sleep when hard-pressed for time. Many consider sleep as a luxury and believe that the benefits of limiting the hours of sleep outweigh the costs. However, what people overlook is the long-term health consequences of insufficient sleep and the impact it eventually has on one’s time and productivity. Sleep health is essential to experience overall well-being and you will understand why through this article.
Why is Sleep Health important?
Sleep is critical to maintaining health and well-being, just as nutrition and physical activity. Loss of sleep due to various reasons, including untreated sleep disorders, adversely affect one’s behavior which negatively affects family and interpersonal relationships. Insufficient sleep is also the leading cause of mishaps such as road accidents, industrial accidents, and medical errors.
Adequate sleep is necessary to:
- Fight infections.
- Support sugar metabolism and prevent diabetes.
- Perform well at academics.
- Work safely and effectively.
The duration of sleep affects a number of critical body functions such as endocrine, metabolic, and neurological, which, if left untreated, can increase the risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and mortality.
Risks associated with Insufficient Sleep
Research shows that reducing sleep by even a mere 2-3 hours every night can have dramatic effects on health as has been explained below:
- Obesity – Insufficient sleep and weight gain have been directly linked in several studies. It has been seen that babies who are “short sleepers” are much more likely to develop obesity later in life than those who sleep the recommended amount.
- Diabetes – Studies have reported that people who sleep fewer than 5 hours per night greatly increase their risks of developing type 2 diabetes. Improving the sleep cycle has been found to positively influence blood sugar control and reduce the effects of type 2 diabetes.
- Cardiovascular disease and Hypertension – Sleep loss, especially when caused by obstructive sleep apnea, is known to greatly increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, and irregular heartbeat.
- Immune function – Scientists have found that sleep deprivation may lead to a decrease in the ability to resist infection by affecting the immune system functioning.
- Common cold – Studies have suggested that less than average time sleepers have a tendency to contract and get infected by cold-causing rhinovirus faster than individuals who sleep better.
- Mortality – Insufficient sleep has ultimately been known to affect life expectancy and day-to-day well-being. Sleeping for less than the recommended hours results in an increase in mortality risk by 15%.
Some Therapies to help with Sleep Disorders
Depending on your needs, the therapist may recommend the following techniques:
- Stimulus control therapy to remove factors that condition your mind to resist sleep.
- Partial sleep deprivation treatment, or sleep restriction, to make you tired to sleep better the next night.
- changing basic lifestyle habits that influence sleep, such as smoking and consuming caffeine, to maintain sleep hygiene.
- Improving the sleep environment to provide comfort, quiet, and darkness.
- Relaxation training to calm your mind and body.
- Letting go of the worry of being unable to sleep and being passively awake.
- Biofeedback to keep your heart rate and muscle tension in check and learn how to relax them.
Remedies for Improving Sleep Health
Some of the complementary techniques to help treat sleep disorders, such as insomnia, and improve sleep health are:
- Mind-body practices – Relaxation techniques, Mindfulness-based stress reduction, Yoga, Acupuncture, Hypnotherapy.
- Dietary supplements – Melatonin, L-tryptophan.
- Herbs – Chamomile, Kava, Valerian, Hops, Passion fruit.
- Other complementary health approaches – Aromatherapy, Homeopathy.
Some Ayurvedic practices help in easing sleep troubles and providing a good night’s sleep to feel better the next day. Following are mentioned 5 of these practices:
- Cool foot bath – Rinsing your foot in cool water before bed or anytime you feel hot during the night is a time-tested technique of improving sleep. According to Ayurveda, the feet is connected with the fire element and, therefore, cooling it down refreshes the mind and returns it to restful sleep.
- Early supper – Ayurveda recommends eating light around sunset and eating at least 2 hours before bed time. This is because having a heavier meal in the night will only reduce your digestive strength and prevent sound sleep.
- Reducing alcohol consumption – Alcohol may be helpful to fall asleep, however, it overstimulates the liver causing restlessness, a fiery body, and mind. After consuming alcohol in the night chances are you may wake up in the middle of the night with hot flases, night sweats, and sweltering feet.
- Adding weight – Often adding a light weight such as a pillow or extra blanket on your feet can help you feel relaxed and sleep undisturbed.
- Self-massage – Rubbing the feet, lower back, ears, and head before bed helps to dilate the blood vessels and release heat, hence, improving sleep.
Ensuring you follow a proper sleep pattern is as important as making sure your diet and work schedule are properly followed. Good sleep health is necessary for overall health and well-being. If you are having difficulty falling asleep, make sure you consult a doctor to understand the cause of insufficient or abnormal sleep patterns in order to tackle the issue from its root
How much sleep is enough?
Sleep patterns differ from person to person and the amount of sleep varies over the course of your life. Mentioned below is the recommendation of sleep needs required in general for different age groups:
- Infants aged 4-12 months: 12-16 hours a day (including naps)
- Children aged 1-2 years: 11-14 hours a day (including naps)
- Children aged 3-5 years: 10-13 hours a day (including naps)
- Children aged 6-12 years: 9-12 hours a day
- Teens aged 13-18 years: 8-10 hours a day
- Adults aged 18 years or older: 7-8 hours a day
Ways of Improving Sleep Habits
A good quality sleep ensures that you are happier and more productive during the day. Sleep is often easily and more conveniently squeezed out of a hectic schedule; however, what people fail to understand is that sleep helps protect your health and well-being in the present and the future.
Some of the ways in which you can improve your sleep habits are:
- Set a proper schedule to sleep and wake up to daily, weekdays and weekends.
- Avoid exposing yourself to artificial bright light or performing strenuous activity before bedtime. Use an hour before bed for some quiet time.
- Avoid heavy and/or large meals, or alcohol before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine or caffeine before bed as they act as stimulants and interfere with sleep.
- Perform physical activity every day.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dry.
- Take a hot bath or use relaxation techniques before bed.
Working on shifts, or at odd hours, interferes adversely with sleep patterns. Under such circumstances, it can be helpful to:
- Take naps and increase the amount of time available for sleep.
- Keep the lights bright at work.
- Limit shift changes to adjust your body clock.
- Limit caffeine use during the first half of your shift.
- While sleeping during the day, remove any sound or light distractions from your room.
End note from WG Team
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