Having issues in getting a good night’s sleep due to the anxiety spurred on by the pandemic? Experts suggest that minimising screen time, taking a hot water shower before going to bed and choosing the right mattress can help maintain a healthy routine. By Ayushi Sharma
Do you know what happens to your body when you lose sleep and don’t log enough hours under the covers? Even missing as little as one hour can have an impact on how you feel, affect your ability to think, remember and process information, weaken your immune system, increase the risk of certain cancers, lead to weight gain and the list might just keep going on... Hence, it has been rightly said that getting enough sleep is important to help a person maintain optimal health and well-being.
Since the lockdown-induced anxieties have highly compromised our sleeping patterns, experts suggest a few ways to make sure you have a good night’s sleep.
Usually, we drift off to sleep when our body has used up most of its energy. With stay-at-home orders, we are not using all our energy levels and to top it off, most of us end up binge-watching, chit-chatting with friends till late night or maybe even work for prolonged hours. Kabir Siddiq, founder and CEO of SleepyCat, a mattress company, explains that this flips our body-clock to a whole 180 degree. “In order to get back that sound sleep, you should try and adhere to some rules such as shutting the digital screens at least three hours before bedtime and rather picking up reading. Avoid working till late hours. By spending even 20 minutes a day exercising, we are able to put all the built energy to good use and it allows our body to feel tired, which eventually leads to a good night’s sleep. Try tuning into calming music at night. It has a direct effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body relax and prepare for a healthier sleep,” says he.
Recently, a survey, conducted at the University of Basel, Switzerland, and the University’s Psychiatric Hospital, reported that sleep quality has badly deteriorated during the lockdown. Our cycle of work and leisure is often mismatched with our internal biological clock. If the differences in sleep timing and duration between work days and days off become too large, this can lead to ‘social jetlag’. The survey found that a relaxation of social rhythms — for example, through more flexible working hours — led to a reduction in ‘social jetlagging’.
Mudit Dandwate, co-founder of Dozee, a sleep monitoring device company, shares that one good practice to induce a sound sleep is to consume some soothing green tea as it helps boost digestion and reduce core body temperature. “Also, taking a hot water shower before going to bed does the exact same thing, which initiates deep sleep. One should also cut down on the caffeine intake at least six hours before sleeping to build a proper sleeping schedule. As we know that certain yoga exercises have been useful in stimulating good sleep and relaxation. Try practising yoga on a daily basis, even if it is for 15 minutes. Yoga nidra, an ancient technique, has been proved to be very useful. Approximately, 20 minutes of yoga nidra is equivalent to two hours of sound sleep,” he says.
A study suggests that it is not right to exercise post 8 pm. Mudit explains the reason, saying, “An intense exercise routine releases a lot of adrenaline, which keeps one awake until late. However, a quick brisk walk is a good stress buster for the mind. Although, it’s great to do it in the morning.”
A restless night has become a routine for almost all of us. Stress and anxiety cause major sleeping problems or worsen existing issues. Following healthy sleep habits — also known as sleep hygiene — helps in reducing anxiety, depressive symptoms and allows one to feel more energetic and positive, believes Dr Anuneet Sabharwal, MBBS MD, Psychiatrist. He suggests a few other methods, which have proven to be useful:
- Stick to a sleep schedule of the same time. Sleeping and waking up daily at the same time helps regulate the body-clock, which helps us fall asleep much faster.
- Have a relaxing environment. Mindful meditation or deep breathing exercises right before going to bed has proved to be effective. It also reduces stress.
- Avoid consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and heavy meals, especially during the evening. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to fall asleep.
- Try to avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Rich foods, fatty-fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion in some people. When this occurs close to bedtime, it can lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep.
- Limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes. Sleeping in the daytime can confuse your internal clock, which means that you may struggle to sleep at night. Don’t underestimate the power of a short nap. Just 20 to 30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance.
- Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for individuals, who mostly stay indoors. Exposure to sunlight during the day as well as darkness at night helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Let the sleep environment seduce you. Mattress and pillows should be comfortable. The bedroom should be cool between 24 and 30 degrees for optimal sleep. Turn off all lights. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices that can make the bedroom more relaxing and you’ll fall asleep in no time.
Experts feel that a right mattress can also make all the difference between a sound sleep and a sleepless night. A good mattress offers a perfect balance of required comfort and support, keeping the natural spinal alignment and body posture in place, thus significantly enhancing the quality of sleep.
Kabir tells us that our mind and body are connected by a neural pathway. It is when the body feels comfortable that we slowly start to drift off into deep sleep. Thus, making sure you sleep on a comfortable surface is very important. An old and uncomfortable mattress can lead to stress buildup. He adds, “A quality mattress provides support to the body and ensures that you don’t end up with a sore in the morning. The type of surface may differ from person to person. Some may prefer a more supportive mattress, while others would want a more hotel-like softness. Either way, it’s about what suits your body the best.”
When it comes to the right sleeping position, try lying on your back or to the side as they are usually considered to be good positions, suggest experts. “Different sleep positions have different benefits. If you have pain or other issues, you might need to switch your sleep position to help manage it better,” adds Kabir.