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Do you get enough sleep?

Last updated: 19 March, 2010

SLEEP AWARENESS MONTH SPECIAL Insomnia is, by far, the most persistent sleep problem which results in impaired daytime functioning and deterioration in quality of life, writes Venus Upadhayaya

We live our lives through states of wakefulness and sleep. A stressful, unrelenting day can affect sleep patterns, and lack of sleep can make a person cranky. Dr Bindu M Kutty, Additional Professor, Department of Neurophysiology, Nimhans, Bangalore, defines sleep as “a behavioural state essential to maintain physical, mental and emotional wellbeing ”.
While it is generally accepted that an individual requires 6-7 hours of sleep every day, what is ‘enough’ sleep is subjective. Dr Bindu explains, “Enough sleep is defined as the amount of sleep that enables one to get out of bed, refreshed, without the aid of an alarm clock. One should not feel drowsy during the day.”

Poor sleep, say the experts, is linked with cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, immune dysfunction, obesity, affective disorders, impaired daytime functioning and more serious medical conditions. So, sleeping in during the weekends to make up for lack of sleep during the week does not help.

Medical risks
Certain cardiovascular diseases develop during certain times of the day. This indicates a clear relationship between sleep and cardiovascular diseases. For example, 15 per cent of sudden deaths and 29 per cent of episodes of atrial fibrillation occur between midnight and 6 am, according to doctors.

Though there are more than 100 identified sleep disorders, the most common sleep complaints can be categorised into five, namely, hypersomnia, insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, parasomnia, and sleep disorders associated with mental, neurological and other medical disorders.

Changing lifestyles have resulted in people suffering from sleep disorders, where the circadian rhythm is disrupted. An increasing number of young people report an inability to fall asleep on time and wake up on time.
Chronic sleep deprivation leads to fatigue and affects an individual’s efficiency and alertness.

What is sleep hygiene?
Here are some tips that could help you:
*Establish a routine when it comes to sleeping and waking up.
* Listen to music or meditate to calm your mind and free it up. This aids sound sleep.
* Keep distractions like television and computers out of your bedroom.

* Avoid heated argument or any kind of unpleasantness before going to bed.
* Ensure that children do not watch television or play video games before they sleep.
Since sleep is a very complex process, psychological factors can also be responsible for lack of sleep. How you live your wakeful state thus becomes important.
As Dr Bindu explains, “It’s all about how we meet challenges during the day. The way we cope with them leaves a deep impact on our overall wellbeing. We have to learn to deal with challenges positively or we have to learn to seek appropriate help.
“As a society our knowledge of sleep is rather limited. Our changing lifestyle has led to changes in our body rhythm, so when we face problems related to sleep we must — without delay — seek expert guidance,” she explains.

Meditation is also seen to have a healthy impact on sleep. According to the studies being carried out on the practitioners of vipassana in the Department of Neurophysiology, Nimhans, meditation helps to establish a proper sleep structure, which benefits individuals as they grow older, when sleep typically proves elusive.

33 pc Indians suffer from insomnia
Sleep Awareness Month aims to raise awareness about sleep disorders and highlight the importance of recognising lack of sleep as a serious health condition which can be treated. Nearly one in three Indians suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders.
Says Dr J C Suri, President, Indian Sleep Disorders Association, “The importance of sleep can be seen from the fact that people spend about one-third of their lifespan sleeping. However, increasing competition at the workplace, hectic lifestyle and stress have resulted in a higher incidence of sleep related disorders, especially among urban Indians. It is important to create awareness about sleep disorders so that people recognise not only the symptoms but also understand that it is a treatable condition.”

Did you know?
Sleep disorders are gender specific. Lack of sleep hits women harder and raises their risk of heart diseases more than it does for men. Studies also suggest that women require more sleep than men, but generally their sleep is of a higher quality and less fragmented. Women also seem to use sleep medication more than men. For men, use of alcohol is more common, which shortens their sleep time. Eighty per cent of the cases of insomnia seen in general practice is related to anxiety and depression; half of the cases of insomnia in specialised clinics are ascribed to psychological causes, drugs and alcohol.

— Indian Sleep Disorders Association

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