By Neha Garg
Problem with sleep, medically called insomnia, could be trouble falling or staying asleep. Getting a quality sleep for an adequate number of hours is very crucial for our health and well being. Ideally, we should sleep 7-9 hours but this may vary.
If you don’t get good quality sleep, you may experience these symptoms:
- Daytime Sleepiness or desire to take small naps the whole day
- Feeling irritable, anxious, and tired
- Lack of concentration and energy
- Difficulty in remembering things and learning new information
- Impact on work-life balance
So what can you do to improve the quality of your sleep?
Quality of sleep can be improved by following “Sleep hygiene”. It refers to steps that you can take on a daily basis to improve your sleep. Some of them are easy to follow but some will need determination and discipline.
- Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day after sufficient hours of sleep.
- Use your bed only for sleeping and no other activity.
- Avoid day time naps or keep them less than 30 minutes.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine, tea, and coffee after late afternoon or early evening. Alcohol helps me sleep – it is a myth!
- Avoid late evening exercises.
- Don’t bring your problems to your bed. Try to forget the stress once you step on to your bed.
- Don’t use your phone, tablet, or laptop in the bed. This will make it very difficult to forget things and fall asleep.
- Keep your phone away so that you don’t grab it frequently.
- Keep your bedroom cozy, quiet, dark, and without any disturbing gadgets.
- You can play some relaxation music or sleep music on a bluetooth speaker.
- Guided sleep meditation could also help.
- Put a few drops of essential oil on your pillow for a relaxed mind.
- Don’t force yourself, if you can’t fall asleep after a few hours get out of the bed and try again in 10-15 minutes.
- Try counting backward from 100 slowly; this bores your mind and you may fall asleep.
- Don’t stay in bed for too long after waking up in the morning.
- Join a meditation or yoga class or practice on your own.
If these Sleep Hygiene measures don’t help, it is advisable to seek medical advice. Sometimes a physician may advise you to record the sleep hours in a diary. In a few cases, when the symptoms are severe and affecting health, your doctor may ask you to get sleep study or polysomnography.
In Polysomnography, while sleeping, you will be attached to a monitor to record your sleep hours, sleep quality, and also if you had any episodes where you stopped breathing for a short period. In case it is found that you had a few episodes where you stopped breathing for a short period, you will need further testing and treatment with sleep assisting machines called CPAP.
Psychotherapy sessions can sometimes help you. Your doctor may even prescribe you sleep medications. It is advisable to still keep following Sleep Hygiene and take medicines only when needed. Medicines for sleep may sometimes cause dependence and then it becomes a habit and almost impossible to sleep without taking them.
Falling and staying asleep is an easy art. The key is to find the cause. Is it bad eating habits? non-comforting bedroom? stress? gadgets? or noise? which one of these? Keep trying until you figure out the cause. If one method doesn’t help, try another. If it helps, keep a record.
This may be a long process, but keep trying and don’t give up. One day you will definitely wake up in a good mood with a smile on your face and all set to explore a new beginning.
Physician, traveler and a blogger.