Think about all the factors that can interfere with a good night’s sleep — from work stress and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges, such as illnesses. It’s no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive.
Especially the pandemic has affected the sleep pattern of people. Along with pushing people on the brink of anxiety, depression, anger and grief, the pandemic also threw our sleep schedules off balance. It gave rise to phenomena like revenge bedtime ‘procrastination’ ‘Coronasomnia’ which further aggravated mental, emotional and behavioural issues for various sections of the population.
Whether kids or adults, everyone’s sleep cycle went for a toss. For some, it was a conscious change stemming from a general sense of frustration and purposelessness and for some it was insidious. Whatever the reason may have been, adjusting to normal work or college life continues to pose a challenge for each one alike.
While you might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation advises that a healthy adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep while babies, children and teens need much more for their growth and development.
“However, what we often end up overlooking is the quality of sleep that we’re getting which is a crucial factor for the maintenance of our overall well-being. A good quality sleep ensures that we wake up feeling fresh, well-rested, alert and can function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deprived or deficient struggle with productivity, concentration and efficiency”, says Damini Grover, an Author and founder of I’m Powered – Center for Counseling and Well-being, Delhi
Quality sleep has also been linked with greater hormonal and metabolic balance. It also aids in reducing mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. Despite its numerous benefits, we still tend to take our bodies and sleep for granted. We tend to reduce our sleeping hours to maximize the time spent on other pursuits when it should be the other way round. The better the quality of our sleep, the more productive and efficient we will be at work and in our studies.
Damini lists down some things that we must keep in mind while addressing sleep deprivation or deficiency:
1. Focus on getting quality sleep: Even if we sleep for 6 hours, it should be a deep, relaxing sleep that enables us to wake up feeling fresh and energized.
2. Maintain a sleep schedule: When we keep changing our sleeping and waking up times, our body is constantly trying to adjust. This misaligned body clock can then give rise to sleep disorders and other health concerns like obesity, diabetes etc. Therefore, it’s important to go off to bed and wake up at or around a particular time and be consistent so that the body can adjust.
3. Start your day with something that relaxes you: Often people procrastinate sleeping because they feel they don’t look forward to the activities the next day. Starting the day with some relaxation activities like meditation, yoga, walking or indulging in your hobby gives your mind and body a good enough reason to wake up and carry on the day with this ‘feel-good factor.
4. ‘Unwind’ before going to bed: As much as we’d like to believe that using our phones just before going to sleep is akin to relaxation, it’s not. Several studies have shown that the blue light emitted by mobile phones restrains the production of melatonin which is essential for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. In addition, the use of our phones right before going to bed actually puts our brains into an alert mode. The simple act of scrolling the phone ups the brain’s engagement quotient which is a direct contradiction to relaxation.
5. Keep at least a 2-hour gap between dinner and sleep: This allows the body enough time to engage in the process of digestion and reduces gastric distress which ultimately interferes with sleep.
There are still a lot of things that we are still coming to terms with. With so much information that our brains and bodies need to process, a good night’s sleep is extremely crucial for our effective functioning.
We often end up compromising on sleep whereas, we need to be maximizing the quality of it to support our well-being and productivity.