How to Improve the Quality of Sleep?
Sleep has a direct impact on physical as well as mental health. Irregular sleeping patterns and disturbed sleep can harm health in many ways. Poor quality of sleep may lead to extreme weight gain or unhealthy weight loss. It affects digestion and assimilation on a deeper level, which may result in chronic acidity, peptic ulcers, constipation, and other gastrointestinal disorders. Ultimately, this commences to several health issues such as nutritional deficiencies, hair fall, unhealthy skin, and many more. However, it also leads to mental confusion, irritability, drowsiness throughout the day, and poor memory.
Recently, many people have approached me with sleeping issues. Patient's come up with questions like - How to sleep better at night naturally? What food helps in better sleep? How to sleep through the night without waking up? How to feel fresh in the morning? How to sleep fast? etc. They all show similar signs like lack of sleep, feeling sleepy but cannot sleep, and disturbed sleep. People who work late at the night and spend maximum time in front of screens often complain more about sleep disturbance. Also, increased stress and crowding of thoughts prohibit sound sleep. Many people have further informed me that they received a prescription for sleeping pills from a physician to treat their chronic insomnia. Irregular sleeping cycles make them feel lazy for the maximum hours of the day. However, few were equally concerned about the appearance of dark circles around the eyes due to inadequate sleep.
The quality and amount of sleep are dependent on the various aspects of our daily routine. However, the production of melatonin in our bodies and the working of circadian rhythm plays a crucial role in inducing sleep. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by a pea-sized gland called the pineal gland. Melatonin is essential for homeostatic regulation in the body. Nevertheless, the rate of secretion of melatonin is directly proportional to exposure to light. The level of melatonin starts increasing after sunrise and drops down after sunset. Hence, the natural time of sleep is usually at night. Each cell in our body has its biological clock, which produces circadian rhythm and regulates its timing. However, circadian rhythm can influence several functions of the body such as hunger, the sleep-wake cycle, the release of hormones, etc. Circadian rhythm determines our sleep patterns and enhances the production of melatonin.
Following are the 7 Proven Tips for Better Sleep:
1. Sync the cycle
As you may have heard about the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin, 'early to bed early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.' However, the people who work late in the evenings or night or those who do night duties, going early to bed can be a difficult task to do. Also, people like to indulge in late-night parties on weekends and holidays. Staying awake late in the night can be a choice as well as a need for some people. Then what is the best way out in this condition? Well, according to the research, the most suitable time to go to bed is between 10 pm to 2 am and a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of continuous sleep is essential. Hence, it is advisable to go to bed as early as possible. However, those who cannot follow this advice can always set a regular sleeping cycle for themselves, that is sleeping and waking at the same time every day. This will allow the body to set the circadian rhythm of sleep and regulate homeostasis in the body. An irregular sleeping pattern degrades the quality of sleep, which may lead to several health issues and reduces the effectiveness of brain function.
2. Control exposure to the light
Our eyes, as well as skin, has receptors for light called photoreceptors, which sends the signal to the brain to secrete melatonin. Maximum exposure to the sunlight and minimum exposure to the blue light emitted by the screens of electronic devices have a huge impact on increasing the levels of the release of melatonin in the body. Getting exposed to the bright sunlight keeps you wide awake during the day. Hence, it is necessary to get exposed to sunlight for a minimum of 45 minutes per day. Also, it will help to replenish the stores of Vitamin D in the body. Too much exposure to bright lights interferes with sleep. However, switching to warm lights in the house instead of white lights and sleeping in a completely dark room would be beneficial. If you have a habit of sleeping with the lights turned on, then you can opt for red light bulbs which have less effect on sleep disturbance. We often use cell phones, laptops, and tablets, and watch television just before we sleep. Exposure to those blue lights delays the release of melatonin in the body and makes us tose in bed. I often suggest cutting down the screen time before bed. That is get rid of exposure to all the screens at least one hour before bed. If it is necessary to use electronic gadgets, then try to use glasses which will reduce the intensity of light. However, you can also use various apps like 'f.lux' and 'blue light filters' to lessen the severity of light emitted by electronic gadgets.
Regular exercise has tons of benefits as we all know. It also has a positive impact on sleep quality. Regular exercise can induce a good night's sleep. However, vigorous exercise before bedtime can cause sleep disturbances. To influence sleep and improve the quality of sleep mild exercises such as walking, stretching, and a particular variety of yoga can be beneficial, however, workouts in the gym and other heavy exercises are a most suitable minimum of three hours before bedtime.
Out of approximately 70% of patients who have visited me for insomnia have had complaints of crowding of thoughts. Stress and overthinking act as sleep suppressors. Hence, clearing your head before sleeping is crucial for sound sleep and a better future. Often people find it difficult to do meditation before sleep. However, doing simple abdomen breathing, body scan exercises, and practising affirmations would help in relaxing the mind and going to sleep. Listening to soothing music, audiobooks, and podcasts as well as reading books on kindle or in the form of hard copies in dim lights can also be effective sleep inducers.
5. Eating habits
Healthy eating and timings of consuming food are other major factor which contributes to the sleep cycle and quality of sleep. There are simple tricks to avoid sleep disturbances due to our eating habits. Avoiding eating in large quantities, spicy and oily food, tea and coffee, and calorie-dense foods before sleeping. However, drinking camomile tea before bedtime soothes the senses and provokes sleep. Also, water infused with nutmeg, mint and Indian basil leaves is helpful. Warm milk with turmeric and Indian basil an hour before sleep can work miracles too.
6. Improve the environment
The noisy and untidy surroundings can have a major effect on the quality of sleep. Hence, cleaning and tidying the bed and room can be beneficial. Also, avoid eating or working by seating on the bed. Restrict your bed or sleeping area for sleeping only. Arranging relieving mild scent of flowers can further help in inducing sleep. The most important is avoiding discomfort. If you have any uneasiness while sleeping, then it has to be managed or perhaps to be removed.
7. Regulation of temperature
Often warmer temperatures prohibit calm sleep. In cold conditions with the help of a quilt and warm clothes, we can manage the optimum temperature. However, it becomes difficult in hot weather. Taking a warm water bath before sleep is a potential option to regulate body temperature. It helps in relaxing tense muscles and reduces the heat in the body.
Let us know which tip helped you the most for better sleep in the comments below. Until next time Rewrite your mind & Relive your Life.
- Meditation - https://rewriteandrelive.in/blogs/index.php?category/Meditation
- Nutrition - https://rewriteandrelive.in/blogs/index.php?category/Nutrition
- Healthy Lifestyle - https://rewriteandrelive.in/blogs/index.php?category/Healthy-Lifestyle
About the Author:
Dr Priyanka Mohol [BHMS, PGDEMS & CC, DDHN, MPH (Scotland)]
Public Health Consultant & Community Nutrition Specialist