Dr. Srivatsa Lokeshwaran, Consultant, Pulmonology, Aster CMI Hospital
Sleep is as important to our health as eating, drinking and breathing. It allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information. Skipping sleep is the worst thing that you can do as it can lead to a wide range of short term health impacts like concentration problems, drowsiness, irritability, increased stress and mood swings that affect the quality of work the following day. With World Sleep Day, an initiative of the World Sleep Day Committee of World Sleep Society, knocking round the corner, it is essential for all of us to know about the long term health impacts of inadequate sleep. These include heightened risk factor of Diabetes, increased risk for breast cancer, high blood pressure, decreased immune function, major depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, stroke and early ageing. This is why, this year’s World Sleep Day has been rightly themed as ‘Healthy Sleep, Healthy Ageing’.
Several studies have directly linked sleep deprivation with premature ageing. Lack of sleep results in formation of dark circles and these dark patches under the eyes occur when blood vessels dilate due to inadequate sleep. Bags under the eyes are another indication of ageing and it starts early when one suffers from consistent lack of sleep. Red eyes where eyes become bloodshot are also due to insufficient sleep and these are caused when the blood vessels get dilated. Insomnia or inadequate sleep can also result in thinning of hair, that too at a very early age. This happens due to increased cortisol levels, also known as stress hormones. Excessive stress and exhaustion occurring due to sleep deprivation can be blamed for triggering telogen effluvium that results in diffuse hair loss across the scalp.
Inadequate sleep causes poor skin elasticity due to reduced collagen, thereby making your skin wrinkled and drooping at a much younger age. When one suffers from poor night’s sleep, he or she is at a greater risk of breaking out in case he or she is acne prone. While this mostly happens with age, sleep deprivation can result in break outs at an early age. Sleep deprivation does not just affect skin and hair but also results in weight gain as sufficient rest burns more calorie than no rest at all. Apart from early ageing, poor sleep can impact relationship and social interaction as well. Various studies conducted show that improper sleep may affect one’s ability to appreciate the partners and loved ones that can cause stress and tension in relationship. Lack of sleep results in fewer feelings of gratitude and higher levels of selfishness.
Sleep is of utmost necessity both for our physical and mental health. However, due to sedentary lifestyle and haphazard work shift patterns, it has become a challenge to get adequate regular sleep these days. On an average, sleep for seven to nine hours at a stretch is best for adult health. But this may vary from people to people. While some may find six to seven hours sleep and short naps during the daytime to be adequate, for some others, eight consecutive hours of sleep happens to be the best option. While some may find it easy to adapt to changing sleeping schedules, some may not. It is important to have a track on your sleeping vitals. Here are some healthy sleeping habits that an individual need to watch out for monitoring adequate sleep.
- An individual should fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes of lying down to sleep
- An individual should have a daily dose of seven to nine hours of sleep in a 24-hour- period
- An individual should have continuous sleep and it should not get disturbed by frequent awaking
- An individual must wake up feeling refreshed and energised
- An individual must feel alert and be completely productive throughout the waking hours
- An individual must not show any disturbing or abnormal behaviour while sleeping like snoring pauses in breathing, restlessness and more.
Almonds, turkey, chamomile tea, kiwi, tart cherry juice, fatty fish, walnuts and passionflower tea are considered to be some of the best foods before bedtime that can give deep sleep and aid in staying healthy and fit. Also, wearing loose, cotton, comfy clothes can enhance your sleep. On World Sleep Day, we should pledge for having sound sleep and healthy body and mind.