Not well-rested? Ways to improve sleep quality



Sleep is nature’s way of relaxing the mind and body. It rejuvenates the body’s cells and provides rest to internal systems. Thus, every system functions more efficiently. It also ensures good health and longevity. The number of hours of sleep needed varies from person to person depending on age, work/study schedules, lifestyle, and the presence or absence of stress.

Though the number of hours of sleep is variable, at least six to eight hours of sound sleep is needed for all. If a person is unable to sleep adequately or at all, they tend to be irritable and feel exhausted during the day. It also causes forgetfulness and difficulty in focusing on work. There can be an increase in blood pressure and heart attacks in those who are susceptible to it due to insomnia (lack of sleep) or disturbed sleep. Some people do not sleep well at night and then remain somnolent during the day. Some even tend to fall asleep at inappropriate places like at work or in a bus/car while travelling, due to not sleeping well at night. There are many reasons for disturbed sleep.

Advancing age, working the night shift, travel, change of place, chronic sickness, anxiety, mental stress, use of brain stimulant substances like alcohol and or tea/ coffee, etc., are common ones. Heartburn, dyspepsia, and body or joint pain, are other conditions that can cause difficulty in sleeping. Many people suffering from insomnia use sedative drugs for sleeping. But consuming them for a long time carries the risk of habit forming, after which the dose taken fails to induce sleep.

Therefore, higher doses have to be taken to bring sleep. These drugs should be taken just when a person is ready to sleep and in bed. After taking a sedative, if a person moves around/talks, the desired effect does not occur. Instead of sleeping, the person can experience unpleasant sensations like a hangover or headache and discomfort. These drugs can cause adverse effects like low blood pressure, abnormal posture, or rigidity of a limb. It is advisable to avoid eating late in the evening.

This prevents the abdominal discomfort and flatulence that occurs after a late meal and disturbs sleep. Avoid taking coffee and other brain-stimulant substances one to two hours prior to sleep time. Apart from causing brain stimulation, coffee also causes heartburn and dyspepsia. Thus, it disturbs sleep in more than one way. Some recommend drinking hot milk at night to get good sleep. Milk contains tryptophan which releases serotonin a neurochemical substance that induces good sleep. Proper choice of clothes worn at night while sleeping is useful in inducing good sleep.

The night clothes should be loose and comfortable, preferably of cotton. Nylon tends to stick to the body causing discomfort. It also feels warm, hence, a person feels uneasy. Saying a prayer before sleep is a tradition started by our wise ancestors to sleep better. After a prayer, the mind becomes relaxed and deep, and sleep can automatically follow in the majority of people. Reading a good book after lying down is a good measure to induce sleep.

The book should be soothing to the mind, like a good classic or spiritual/philosophical one. Watching television till late evening excites the mind and hampers sleep. Hence, a person having problems with sleep should avoid watching television or movies, for at least an hour before sleeping. Deep breathing relaxes the mind and induces good sleep. Breathing exercises of yoga done regularly are also very effective in curing insomnia. One can sleep very well without drugs. The only thing needed is that the individual follows the necessary measures regularly and patiently.

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