You need eight to 10 hours of healthy sleep every night.
Otherwise, your life and heart tend to fall apart, alerts Dr Santosh Kumar Dora.

‘I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know.’ This quote is popularly attributed to novelist Ernest Hemingway.

Did he actually say it? We don’t know.

What we do know is that we become irritable and crabby and impatient when we do not sleep enough. Or if we spend the night in disturbed sleep.

What you need to know about sleep

For centuries after human life originated on earth, our living pattern was dependent on the environment around us.

Have you heard about the Circadian rhythm? It’s the 24 hour internal clock in our brain that regulates alertness and sleep as per the changes in the environment around us.

Our brain is tuned to rest when it is dark and remain alert when there is light.

Forcibly altering this sleep cycle does not agree with various internal functions of the body, which can lead to numerous health issues.

Inadequate sleep at night can leave one feeling sleepy during the day. This leads to lack of concentration at work, feeling tired easily, judgement errors, etc.

In the long term it may lead, among other health issues, to diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression and coronary artery disease.

One should try to find out the possible reason/s for not able to sleep and correct them rather than take sleeping pills.

If you are suffering from insomnia, please talk to your health care provider and discuss your sleep-related issues. The health care provider will prescribe a sleeping pill only if she or he feels it is absolutely necessary.

How much sleep do you need?

Ideally, go to sleep at around 10 pm and say good morning to the world at around 5 am or 6 am.

If you follow this pattern, your deepest sleep will be around 2 am to 4 am.

You need eight to 10 hours of healthy sleep every night. Otherwise, your life and heart tend to fall apart.

Chronic sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on the mental and physical well-being of a person.

Why are we not able to sleep?

Well, much of this damage is self-inflicted.

So much so that what we call the teenage syndrome — including the moodiness, the constant battles and the reckless, impulsive and careless behaviour — may have a lot to do with not getting enough sleep at night.

Some believe that variations of such behavioural patterns caused by lack of or inadequate sleep are visible all the way upto 45 years of age, when the onset of an illness demands course correction.

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Self-inflicted bad habits

Here are a few self-defeating habits across age groups that you can begin correcting right away.

1. Social jetlag: Most parents believe that going to bed and waking up late on the weekends is no big deal for adolescents, as long as they get enough sleep during that time.

This goes against the body’s natural clock and is one form of damage.

Parents themselves are guilty of imagining themselves to be superheroes, partying late at night and then sleeping it off during the daytime.

2. Blue light syndrome: Use of mobile/laptops late at night causes exposure to blue light which restrains the production of melatonin (a hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle).

This makes it difficult to fall asleep.

3. Late night eating: Staying awake late at night, for whatever reason, disrupts your eating pattern.

Untimely dinners or eating too much during dinner can make you physically uncomfortable while lying down, which may keep you awake.

4. Late night caffeine: Drinking excessive caffeinated drinks late in the afternoon or in the evening can keep you from falling asleep at night.

5. The alcohol/smoking myth: Many people argue that alcohol helps them fall asleep. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Others believe that smoking makes them eat less.

What both actually do is prevent deeper stages of sleep. They often disturb your sleep and cause you to awaken in the middle of the night.

There’s no two ways about it: Alcohol consumption and smoking are bad for you.

All of these are self-inflicted bad habits.

They are not the result of work-related activities like working in shifts or having to adjust working with colleagues in different time zones. Nor are they caused but the stress inflicted by natural calamities.

In short, they are habits that can be avoided.

Habits you can change

Once these habits are ingrained in your system, there is only one way to get rid of them. You have to decide to break them and you have to be determined that you are going to break them.

Do remember, though, that breaking any habit is not easy. Don’t give up. Keep at it and it will happen. You will be able to move to a healthier lifestyle.

This is what you need to do:

1. Avoid watching TV when it is time for bed.

2. Don’t use your laptop or mobile phone at bedtime. Avoid bringing gadgets into your bedroom.

3. Fix on a time to go to bed and a time to wake up. Be consistent about it. Till you get into a routine, write down the time you go to bed and the time you wake up. It will help you keep track.

4. Keep a check how much caffeine you have in a day. Avoid it as much as possible.

5. Avoid alcohol and nicotine completely.

6. Ensure your sleep area is quiet and comfortable. Use a good quality mattress. 

7. Avoid large meals before bedtime.

8. Meditate regularly, at least for 10 minutes.

9. Limit daytime naps

10. Include a good amount of physical activity in your daily routine so that your body is physically tired and feels the need to sleep.

11. Read. Make a book your bedtime companion.

These simple steps can help you get a good night’s rest and avoid catastrophic life events like heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity and depression.

When you are in your growth phase, sleeping well aids the process.

A good night’s sleep repairs the damage to your body and improves the functioning of your nervous system.

If you still feel that you are not getting a good night’s rest even after following these steps, do consult a somnologist.

Dr Santosh Kumar Dora, MD, is a senior cardiologist at Mumbai’s Asian Heart Institute. He has 12 years of experience in internal medicine and seven years of experience in cardiology. He has completed his clinical research fellowship in electrophysiology and pacing under Dr Thomas Peter, director, EP, at the Cedar Sinai Medical Center, USA.

Have sleep-related questions? Ask our experts — Roopashree Sharma, Namita Piparaya, Dr Karthiyayani Mahadevan and Dr Ashit Hegde. 

Please note: All content and media herein is written and published online for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It should not be relied on as your only source for advice.

Please always seek the guidance of your doctor or a qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Do not ever disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read herein.

If you believe you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital, or call emergency services or emergency helplines immediately. If you choose to rely on any information provided herein, you do so solely at your own risk.

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