Stop counting sheep and start sleeping

Stop counting sheep and start sleeping

For years and years we have been advised that a good night’s sleep is “just what the doctor ordered”. We also acknowledge that insomnia and the resulting sleep deprivation are cause for serious concern.  Yet, many health care specialists are advising us to ‘stop counting sheep’.  Why is this so?

Well, while counting white sheep daintily jumping over picket fences were supposed to have a soporific effect, they no longer seem to be able to be adept at this.  What then is the solution; contend with less sleep?  This is definitely not a great prescription to face this 24x7 work week that most of us are in.  All is not lost.  When all else fails, start looking at what you eat.

In the West, the first choice is salmon, as it has been proven to provide a restful night’s sleep.  There are healthy fats in this fish, which boost the level of the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep.  Many of you may have used this (sparingly and under doctor’s supervision only) as an aid in controlling jet lag.

Many in our country are, however, vegetarians and in any case exotic fish could be prohibitively expensive.  There is no need to stop reading at this point and pop a pill.  The simple kidney beans, or rajma, and for that matter any dal is a wonderful example of a simple food providing a multitude of vitamins and minerals.  Rajma provides Vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid — all of which help control insomnia.  In this case, serotonin is released, which aids in regulating sleep cycles.

You’ve had your rotis with rajma, so what next?  Nothing could be better than plain dahi (yogurt) or rice mixed with yogurt.  Try to make your dahi/ curd with low-fat or skim milk so that you don’t end up over-indulging. Curd is recognised the world over as being an excellent source of calcium and magnesium. These minerals not only help you sleep faster, but also keep your deep-sleep time high. An inadequate supply of these minerals could lead to muscle cramps, higher stress, insomnia and deficit sleep.  It is important to note that insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, while sleep deprivation and a consequent deficit are created when the quantum of sleep is inadequate.  This quantum varies from person to person within certain set ranges based on several factors.  If you suddenly sleep much more or less than you are used to, it is a sign that you are suffering from some form of sleep disorder and need to seek treatment.

And last but certainly not the least, let’s take a page out of Popeye’s book and add a lot of spinach to our diet.  We in India are lucky that we are able to buy good quality greens, inexpensively almost throughout the year.  More importantly there are several healthy ways of cooking palak and sarson ka saag.  Even the plain Jane, keerai masiyal, of the South is chock full of nutrition.

As always, it is important to note that these are just general tips and chronic (or prolonged) insomnia and sleep-deprivation are serious conditions.  If you feel tired and listless all day, it is time to consult a doctor.

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