With increasing scientific evidence showing how a lack of sleep can negatively affect your health, getting enough rest is more important than ever. Yet millions of Indians still suffer from poor sleep and insomnia, caused by everything from medical issues to stressful workplaces. The Covid-19 pandemic has added to the population’s stresses and, according to reports, doctors have seen an increase in patients with insomnia, depression and anxiety.
According to a study of two hundred and seventy-eight OPD patients in a hospital in Bangalore, chronic insomnia was seen in 33% of the adults who participated. It was also found that increasing age and diabetes were significantly associated with insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is common but often never diagnosed, yet it can have serious implications on everyday life. Lack of sleep can affect a person’s mood, their cognitive abilities as well as contribute to diseases and ailments such as obesity and heart disease.
Here we take a look at the causes and effects of poor sleep, and what you can do to make sure you’re clocking up your nightly eight hours with healthy sleeping habits.
A wide range of issues can cause problems with sleep, with the most common including:
Lifestyle habits, such as drinking too much caffeine, alcohol or an unhealthy diet
An uncomfortable sleeping environment, be that too cold, too bright or too loud
Too much stimulation before bedtime (e.g from watching TV or using a mobile phone)
Pain and health issues, such as heartburn, anxiety or depression
Sleep is a key way our body repairs itself, so it makes sense that sleep deprivation can have hugely negative effects on every aspect of our lives—particularly over a long period of time. Not getting enough sleep can make it much harder to think and concentrate at work, while the effect on your immune system can lead to a range of illnesses. It’s also been linked to depression, weight gain, early ageing and a reduced sex drive, among other problems.
Your environment makes a huge difference, so try to implement some positive changes that encourage restorative sleep. This includes making sure the temperature is right for sleeping. Many experts suggest around 18°C is ideal. Though this may not always be feasible in warmer parts of India, keeping your bedroom as cool as you can help you snooze better. Keep the lighting low and yellow-toned, adding sleep-friendly plants and enforcing a rule that the bed is only for romance and sleep, not for working or watching television!
If you struggle with stress or getting in the mood to sleep, develop a routine to help you relax. This could include taking a bath, drinking calming, non-caffeinated tea, spritzing your room with lavender spray and switching off your electronic devices (or if necessary, making sure they’re emitting yellow light rather than blue).
Certain activities during the day can hinder healthy sleep, so try to stop drinking caffeine after 12 pm, and make sure you’re getting as much exposure to natural light as possible. Avoid napping, and make sure you get up and go to bed at the same time every day to get into a good regular sleep routine.
The position you sleep in can affect the quality of your sleep, with some popular positions (such as on your stomach) being surprisingly bad for you. Aim to sleep on your back to support your spine and ward off acid reflux, while those who struggle with snoring or sleep apnea are better on their side.
If the problem persists after exhausting all your options, consult a doctor to see if there might be an underlying medical cause. Keep a diary of the issues you’re experiencing and the techniques you’ve tried to help pinpoint the problem.