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Pillow talk

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The quality of your sleep can literally determine the quality of your life. Here is why you should give more power to that pillow

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reports that one in five road accidents is caused by someone accidentally (and fatally) falling asleep behind the wheel. Recent studies published by the New England Journal of Medicine have proved that chronic sleep deprivation can kill you regardless of whether you're driving or not. According to the study, cutting down on the hours that you sleep each night will not only affect your memory power or ability to think logically, but it will also affect the healthy functioning of your heart.

"Lack of sleep can affect your health physically and mentally," says Dr. N. Ramakrishnan, President, Indian Sleep Disorders Association (ISDA), Director of Nithra Institute of Sleep Sciences and Senior Consultant, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai. "It can make you irritable, anxious and depressed. Over a period of time, the lack of quality sleep can trigger physical conditions in the body such as high blood pressure. If you are diabetic, it can make the condition worse. It can also cause cardiac problems. Most people tend to think that sleep is something that they can control and regulate. However, they aren't aware of the long-term impact that this can have on the health of your heart and your general well-being."

Recovering from sleep debt

There's no denying that ours is an era of wakefulness. Doing business or offering any service in a global village can often mean working around the clock with relentless, punishing schedules. And these days, it's not unusual for even children to stay awake into the wee hours, preparing for exams and finishing school work.

Sleep deprivation is so common in our society that people rarely see it as a disease. With over 35 per cent of aging Indians suffering from some form or sleep disorder or the other, insomnia is threatening to become an epidemic in our country.

So how much sleep is enough? Depending on your age, body strength and needs, the amount varies with every individual. A newborn spends almost 17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. At 3 years, most children are napping, but at five, they no longer need it. From 7-12 years, 10-11 hours are recommended. Teenagers need 8-9 hours and the middle aged population can make do with 7-7.5 hours. Octogenarians seem to get by with six. "You need as much sleep that will make your body alert, active and functional throughout the day," says Dr Ramakrishnan.

"Total sleep requirements change over the lifespan of an individual and this wanes as the human brain matures," says Dr Preeti Devnani, Clinical Director of a comprehensive Sleep Disorder Clinic in Mumbai and a consultant physician at the Department of Neurology,

Clinical Neurophysiology and Sleep Medicine, Jaslok Hospitals, Mumbai. "If you're sleep deprived, try to get that recovery sleep as soon as possible rather than allowing a sleep debt to accumulate throughout the week," she says. "It is impossible to catch up only on weekends and the main downside to sleeping excessively on weekend mornings is the dampening effect it can have on your homeostatic drive (sleep inducing drive) the following night. Also, gastrointestinal, metabolic and hormonal circadian patterns are affected by sleep loss."

The Exercise-Sleep connection

If you're not hitting the pillow enough, then it's best you avoid hitting the gym too, because experts feel, exercise and sleep have a long-standing connection. During sleep, important hormones involved in muscle growth, fat burning, bone building and tissue repair are released. Without these hormones, your body may find it unable to repair itself and recover from a strenuous workout.

If you exercise after a sleepless night, it will only add to your fatigue. "Exercising after acute sleep loss results in increased perception of exertion," says Dr Devnani. "Sleep loss alters the psychological response to exercise. It also diminishes the ability to produce peak power while exercising. Vertical jumping ability and isokinetic strength deteriorate with lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can decrease your energy levels, making it harder for you to get a good workout."

Avoid cultivating the worst sleep habits

We know that we should eat at least an hour before we sleep and that ideally, the room should be dark, cool, comfortable and conducive to a good night's rest. But what are the worst sleep habits that you may be unknowingly bringing into your bedroom that can cause extreme insomnia?

"Avoid the electronic touch," says Dr Devnani. "This would include close proximity to your cellphone, blackberry, laptop, iPad or any device that emits blue light. These devices engage people's minds with their stimulating content and prevent them from drifting off. The use of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine from cigarette smoke; all this acts as a stimulant as well. The brain requires a deep "slow wave" sleep in order to recharge itself and all this can interfere with that."

"Find ways to unwind from 9 p.m.," advises Dr Ramakrishnan. "Begin to de-stress, both physically and mentally, at least an hour before bed. This will ensure that the quality of your sleep is good." So, if you haven't had a good night's rest lately, then just let this article be your wake-up call!

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 5:12:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/pillow-talk/article3657658.ece

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