One of the biggest casualties of a hectic lifestyle is usually your sleep. While you may stick to eating superfoods, or doing some form of exercise regularly, you often sleep less on busy days, or stay up nights battling stress and anxiety.
But by sleeping less, you are harming your health in more ways than one. “Sleep is a biological process driven by hormones and plays a crucial role in the maintenance of a healthy body,” says Dr Deepti Bagree, head of department-Healthcare, Reset- Holistic Living Concepts.
Why you need to sleep
The health benefits of sleep depend on its quality and quantity. A good night’s sleep helps you detoxify. “When you are asleep, each organ undergoes detoxification. In the morning, when you wake up, you will find urine to be dark yellow (from kidney detoxification) and there is often an urge to pass stools (indicating colon detox). There is also mucous and cough, all of which indicates a cleanse,” says Dr Bagree.
Research also shows that individuals who sleep adequately, live longer and lead a better quality of life than those who are sleep-deprived. Sleep also reduces inflammation as a lot of maintenance work in the body happens during that time.
And if you trying to lose weight, sleep is a must. “Sleep improves digestion, and helps maintain organs responsible for various functions. This maintains equilibrium in the body, and helps you retain a healthy body weight. In fact, the hormones that are responsible for making one fall asleep are also the ones that control appetite, and any sleep disorder will also lead to greater appetite leading to weight gain,” said Dr Bagree.
You may feel like you sleep like a log from night till early morning, but sleep is actually divided into two types: Non rapid eye movement which comprises 3 sub-types (N1,N2 and N3) and Rapid eye movement, which is also termed as active sleep. “An individual goes through both these cycles while asleep and it’s the duration of these cycles (generally 90 minutes each) that determines quality and quantity of sleep,” says Dr Bagree.
On an average, a person should sleep for 7-9 hours to function optimally. The best time to sleep is between 10am to 4am, as the body is tired enough and starts demanding rest, says Dr Bagree. While toddlers and infants tend to sleep for 16-18 hours a day or more (as they are still growing), adults sleep relatively less. “The best way to evaluate if you slept well is to see how you feel the next morning. If you feel charged up, it indicates a good quality of sleep. If you feel lethargic, it’s time to re-evaluate your sleep cycle,” said Dr Bagree.
But can you make up for the sleep debt by sleeping over the weekend or more on the next day? “Night sleep is always more restorative than day sleep as it depends on the internal biological clock. People do try making up for sleep lost during their day-offs but this actually affects their sleep-wake cycle in the coming week,” she explains.
Tips to help you sleep well at night
* Sleep is a hormonally controlled process. The hormone responsible for it is melatonin and many foods helps in the natural secretion of it. So, add cherries, chamomile tea, kiwis, organic milk, almond and walnuts to your diet.
* The sleep hormone is photosensitive, which means that when light hits the eyes, the secretion of hormones drops. So going off gadgets emitting blue light will help you fall asleep.
* Taking a warm water shower 30 minutes before bedtime soothes the nerves and relaxes sore muscles, which can help you fall asleep.
* Stress is driven by hormones and can affect your sleep. So, reducing stress can improve your sleep. Practice meditation and deep breathing.
* Having coffee in the evening can affect sleep as it increases the heart rate and keeps you awake. However, you can take chamomile tea 30 minutes before going to bed.
* Have certain bedtime rituals. Sleeping and waking up at fixed hours helps maintain the quality of sleep. Any changes in the pattern affects your sleep.
* Opt for a light dinner. Going to bed on a full stomach can lead to acid reflux and flatulence.
* Sleep in a cooler environment. A well-ventilated room is better than one that is cluttered or less ventilated.
* Exercising too close to bedtime (less than 3-4 hours gap) can affect your sleep and may hamper your detoxification process.
* Many medications, such as beta blockers, antidepressants, and pills having caffeine interfere with sleep. Taking them close to bedtime can affect sleep patterns. So, talk to your doctor about the time and dosage of medication.
* Drinking water close to bedtime can disturb your sleep by increasing the urge to urinate. Instead, drink water 30 minutes before bedtime.
* Nicotine, being a stimulant, can interfere in the sleeping process. So, avoid smoking close to bedtime.