Dream of a good night’s sleep

On World Sleep Day (March 18), promise yourself to change your lifestyle and grab the mandatory shut eye

Updated - March 17, 2016 07:33 pm IST

Published - March 17, 2016 03:50 pm IST - Chennai

Blurred students in the classroom with one asleep girl
பள்ளி வகுப்பறையில் தூங்கும் மாணவி

Blurred students in the classroom with one asleep girl பள்ளி வகுப்பறையில் தூங்கும் மாணவி

A precious thing we took for granted is now being pursued in vain — a good night’s sleep. People delay hitting bed, preferring the company of their numerous gadgets. Others toss and turn on the most luxurious mattresses, unable to switch off from the world outside. Some are in mental agony, playing and replaying the events of the day/week/month/year, wondering what went wrong and where. The result? A slew of health issues brought on by one single factor: lack of sleep.

N. Ramakrishnan, senior consultant and director of Nithra Institute of Sleep Sciences, Chennai, says that’s why the theme for World Sleep Day 2016 is ‘Good sleep is a reachable dream’. “We stress on the fact that this is lifestyle-related and that people must make an effort to change their habits.”

Sadly, though enough studies show how vital sleep is, few physicians look at it as a cause or give it importance as a symptom. “When I started Nithra, I saw one patient a week. Today, I see about 30 a day, but we found that more than 60 per cent were coming in by themselves, only the rest were referred by doctors. So, are patients more aware than physicians?” he wonders.

How often has a doctor asked you if you sleep well or wanted to know your sleep pattern? That information can help place in context many ailments, experts say.

From a time when lack of sleep plagued the elderly, today, people of all ages come in with the complaint. “We put in long hours at work, we don’t unwind, there’s lots of light in the room, there’s no routine physical activity at the correct time…,” says Dr. Ramakrishnan, and adds: “Physical activity is vital, but you must know when to do it. Gymming at night worsens sleep. So do late dinners, coffee, tea, alcohol and smoking.”

Children have not been spared either. Janani Sankar, senior consultant, Kanchi Kamakoti Childs Trust Hospital, lays the blame squarely on gadgets and technology. “They are hooked to so many devices that they end up hitting bed later and later. So many parents complain,” she says.

Lack of sleep among children manifests as day-time sleepiness, chronic headaches and poor academic performance among old kids, and temper tantrums and unexplained crankiness among younger children. When paediatricians notice these symptoms, they pop the sleep question. “Invariably, the kids have sleep deficit,” says Dr. Janani.

In fact, says Dr. Ramakrishnan, a recent study showed that kids with inadequate sleep focus lesser academically; it overshadows even their natural smartness.

The mind can also play games and prevent people from having restful sleep. “Psychological issues, trauma in interpersonal relationships, workplace tangles… all play a role in depriving you of a good night’s rest. Sometimes, people need medication to bring their lives back on track.”

All this, because sleep does not complain vocally when hours are snatched away from it and handed over to other activities. “But, I wish people gave more importance to sleep. Its benefits are not tangible, but incredibly precious. Recognise and respect that,” says Dr. Ramakrishnan.


The Westin celebrates World Sleep Day in partnership with World Sleep Society. Close to 50 of their hotels and resorts across Asia Pacific, including The Westin Chennai Velachery, will take part in a series of activities and events today. The Westin team will deliver customised ‘Sleep Kits’ to people in various professions. These sleep kits contain a travel-sized Heavenly Pillow, chamomile tea, the hotel’s signature white tea bath amenities and a Sleep Well guidebook containing sleep tips.

World Association of Sleep Medicine’s fundamental mission is to advance sleep health worldwide by promoting and encouraging education, research, and patient care throughout the world, said a statement. World Sleep Day is an annual event it created to raise awareness on sleep disorders and the burden they place on society.


Wake up at the same time every day.

Set a schedule for sleep time and stick to it.

A brisk morning walk helps. Your body needs sunlight to know it is time to wake up, and darkness to know it can rest.

Sleep in an environment that calms you.

Avoid harsh light and illumination from gadgets.

Ideal sleep time

Eight hours for children, at a stretch. Avoid afternoon naps for slightly older children; it will interfere with their night sleep.

For adults, six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. You know you’ve slept well when you awaken refreshed and don’t feel like hitting the snooze button.

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