Articles on neuroscience of sleep

3 Reasons That Are Making You Lose Your Sleep

Ms. Damini Grover, Psychologist
Days turn into weeks and you can do everything except sleep! Isn't it? With a crazy lifestyle that we have, it has become just about normal, to lose our sleep over anything and everything.Before we know it, it turns into a routine affair. One day turns into days and then weeks and our; good night's sleep is eaten away by thoughts, images, events, dilemmas, self-doubt and worry. Gradually, we find ourselves getting more and more into a cycle of anxiety and depression.Just like the idea of switching off our phones for a while seems like a ridiculous thought; the idea of shutting off the mind for a while feels the same.But if we know that we must sleep for at least 6-7 hours every night, why can't we do it?Here's why:We don't know how to take a break! Rather, we don't know what a break means.It's not just about taking time off for a holiday or vacation; it's about taking time off from the routine affairs of life. If the situation demands us to choose between what we want to do and what we should do, we would always go for the former. Why? Heavens will not fall, if we skip some routine activities. Because we don't skip some activities, the mind forgets to differentiate between the important and the not-so-important. Therefore, it becomes a magnet which keeps attracting all kinds of thoughts. Hence, you are up all night thinking about random things.Plan before you go off to sleep, not during!Yes,planning is boring. It's geeky, time consuming and many more things. But what it also is-a helping hand for uncertain situations. We can't plan everything in life and we don't need to plan everything in life. But for the things that we can, it's always smarter to do it in advance so that you can go off to bed comfortably and not worry about what will happen, how will it happen, what will you do etc. Once you know, you have done all that you could, it would take a load off your mind!Not addressing emotional concernsWe all go through anxiety, low moods, anger, irritation etc. We all can handle a certain amount of emotional turmoil. But if the mood states persist for a longer duration and start interfering in other areas of life, they are bound to impact the body's normal functioning as well. Thus, affecting appetite and sleep. Therefore, it's important to talk it out and deal with the emotions instead of deferring them. You can talk to people close to you or you can even seek professional help.We don't know how to relax!Learning how to relax is important. It's important to indulge in activities that keep us closer to ourselves. Pursuing any hobby, socializing, learning relaxation techniques is as important as holding a job, earning money, managing the house, kids, studies etc.The more we progress in life, the less attention we pay to our own biological and natural needs. Since we can't sleep, we might as well wake up and do something that can out us back to sleep!Sleep well. Stay healthy. Feel good!

5 Natural Ways to Get Good Sleep

Akshata Bhat, Psychiatrist
Anyone who has ever had a bad night’s sleep will tell you how difficult the next day is: You find it difficult to concentrate on anything. You are irritable and get annoyed about minor things. Your eyes feel as if someone has poured sand on them. Your head is aching the whole day and your stomach feels like it’s on fire.Why is sleep important?Sleep is an important part of our life. It is when our body and mind gets rest. Sleep is also when the body heals itself. A number of hormones required for the proper functioning of the human body are secreted during sleep. A good sleep helps to promote good health. People who have sleep disturbances are more prone to develop obesity and heart problems.How can you improve your sleep naturally?Regular bedtime: Your body has its own internal clock, and it follows something called a circadian rhythm. Maintaining a regular bed time and waking time helps your body to understand when to stay awake, and when to sleep.Exercise: Exercise helps you to stay fit. It also causes your body to release endorphins, which help to keep you happy. It also promotes good sleep. However, ensure there is a gap of 4-5 hours between heavy exercise and sleep, as it may interfere with your sleep.Sleep in a dark room: Sleeping in a dark, quiet room helps to promote the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Such conditions are conducive for good sleep.Dietary changes: Add or increase foods rich in tryptophan. This acts as a building block and promotes release of melatonin. It also helps to increase the serotonin levels in the body, which are responsible for general mental well being. Examples of such foods: milk and dairy products, nuts and seeds, chicken and turkey.Avoid caffeine: As much as you love your many daily cups of tea and coffee, cut down on the caffeine consumption for good sleep. Avoid caffeine at least 5 hours before sleep. Switch to decaf coffee or green tea as a healthy alternative.Try the above methods to get better sleep. These will not only help you sleep better, but help you inculcate a healthy lifestyle, with visible benefits in all spheres. Sleep well!

Good Sleep for Good Health

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
Nothing makes you feel more refreshed than a good sleep in night. It is a natural cyclic state of resting for mind and body. There’s more to an ideal 7-8 hrs of sleep than just preparing our bodies for the next day. Adequate sleep is an essential part of good health and plays an important role in all body functions hence ensuring a better mental and physical fitness.The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reported that good sleep is essential for a person’s health and well being.Lord Chesterfield very well said that “A light supper, a good night's sleep and a fine morning have often made a hero out of the same man, who, by indigestion, a restless night and a rainy morning would have proved a coward."Now, the question is “Can good sleep make good health?”Yes, sleep makes you feel better. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle. Without it, one becomes more susceptible to health problems, such as heart disease, obesity, depression and many more. Some facts of sleep which lead to a healthy life are -Good Sleep Keeps Heart Healthy: Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol so some experts say that heart will be healthier if one gets between( 7 -9 hours) of sleep each night.Sleep Helps to Make Body Repairs: Sleep is a time for your body to repair damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays and other harmful exposures. Your cells produce more protein while you are sleeping. These protein molecules form the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair damage. This is the time when the cells undergo wear and tear and that’s what makes you feel refreshed in the morning.Good Sleep Reduces Stress: When your body is sleeping deficient, it goes into a state of stress. Therefore it is recommended to have good sleep in order to allow your body to cope with day’s stress and manage it in a better way with a relaxed mind. It is found that any amount of sleep deprivation reduces mental performance.Sleep & Weight Loss: Lack of sufficient sleep affects the appetite regulating hormones. It also aggravates cravings for high-fat and carbohydrate rich foods, making a route to weight gain. It also affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, a key factor in weight management. So, if you want to be on a healthy weight, make sure you get a good sleep every night.Good Sleep Reduces Depression: Lack of proper sleep and depression is inter-linked. Depression may lead to insomnia and lack of sleep increases depression. Sleep impacts serotonin levels (feel-good hormone) which affect the mood of an individual.Sleep Prevents Cancer: People working for long hours have a higher risk for breast and colon cancer. There is evidence stating that good sleep can alter the balance of hormones in the body which may influence cancer progression.As very well said by Benjamin Franklin, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy & wise.”

Is Your Child Sleeping Well?

Dr. K R Bharath Kumar Reddy, Pulmonologist
Sleep is an important fundamental need of every child for both mental and physical well being. We underestimate the importance of sleep, which is shown to influence the child's growth, immunity, memory and development. The amount of sleep required varies according to the age of a child.A new born baby requires around 16 to 18 hours of sleep.A pre-school toddler may need around 12 hours of sleep including both night and day time sleep.A school going child, requires around 10 hours of sleep at night.Teenagers are recommended sleep of 9 hours but this obviously never happens.Adult requirement is nearly 7 to 8 hours.But it is important to note, that it is not the quantity or duration of sleep that is important for good health, but the quality of sleep. So we need to always question whether a child is actually sleeping well, even though he/she sleeps for long hours.When do you start suspecting a sleep problem?Nearly 25-30% of children are known to suffer from sleep problems as per international data. Adults when sleep deprived are sleepy during the day, but this is not so with children. They can present with varied symptoms such as:Excessive sleeping during the dayMoodiness and irritabilityTemper tantrumsEmotional surgesHyperactive behaviourGrogginess when they wake up in the morningReluctance to get out of bed in the morning or difficult to awakenNot achieving bladder control at nightExcessive movement of legs during sleepSo in case your child has any of the above symptoms, it is important to consider the possibility of a sleep problem and consult your doctor for the same.

Are You Sleeping Right?

Dr. Rajiv Mehta, Physiotherapist
Sleep is a natural part of the daily biological functions and we spend some time of the 24 hours sleeping. Sleep cycles are different for different persons and while 5 to 6 hours of sleep may be enough for some people, others may need up to 8 hours of sleep to feel refreshed. How you sleep is as important as the duration. This is one area which is often neglected by people.Why sleeping positions are important? Sleeping positions are very important as you stay in a single position for hours at a time every day, and if these habits are bad, they can contribute to spinal problems. Thus, many of the spinal problems can also be alleviated by sleeping correctly.Some of the bad sleeping positions that may adversely affect your spine are as follows.On your stomach - This position is in overall a bad position as it curls up the spine, especially where the neck meets the spine and can cause spinal deformities over a long period of time. Certain adjustments to this position can lessen the effects, but it is important to try to change habits and sleep in a better position.The fetal position - Although this is one of the more natural positions and most babies are crouched up in this form in the mother's womb; as a sleeping position, it has its disadvantages as well. The lower spine is especially put under a lot of stress when someone curls up in this position.On your side - Although this is safer compared to the other two, sleeping on your sides straight would cause blood circulation issues and also put a lot of stress on the relevant organs, depending on the side you were sleeping on.In all of the cases, slight adjustments to these positions will lessen the stress on the spine and also help you sleep better.Some of the adjustments that you can make are:1. Sleep with a pillow between your knees to align your hips and cause less strain on the spine.2. If you don't have sleep apnea, put a pillow under your knees to raise them while lying on you back.3. If you sleep on your back, try to consciously change your position to sleep on the side.4. Try and actively change your posture throughout the day to ensure good sleeping position at night.

Lack of Sleep Makes You Gain Weight

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
You are too busy to eat and yet you are putting on weight. Are you getting enough sleep? Maybe this is what really sabotaging your weight and not your diet. Lack of sleep makes us crave more cups of coffee/tea or high sugar food like biscuits to perk us up. All this result in added calories. Besides if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly. Getting little or disturbed sleep causes hormonal imbalance which leads to weight gain. Sleep is very important. Here are some facts about how sleep might be affecting your health -Lead you to Overeating: Many studies have shown that your diet and your sleep patterns are related. Lack of sleep can lead to disturbed physiology of your body. So, when you do not get enough sleep it may lead to cravings and over-consumption of calories because when you are craving for food it is so easy to get tempted to reach for a cup of coffee and a doughnut for a quick shot of energy. But this will only adds up to your weight so sleeping at least eight hours each night helps you in managing your weight.Hormonal imbalance: Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep increases the chances of getting obese. Many studies have shown that when you do not sleep enough it disturbs your hormonal balance by increasing the level of ghrelin hormone. Ghrelin is a hormone known for its affect on appetite and disturbed level of ghrelin hormone leads to increased appetite. Disturbed hormones level also lead to irritation or frustration feeling without any specific reason.Effects your metabolism: When your body is deprived of sleep your metabolism slows down and will not function properly. It directly affects your weight loss as your body is not working effectively in burning the calories. That slowdown triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which increases appetite. Your body thinks it needs more energy and that’s why you feel hungry.For better health and to manage your weight it is important to get 8 hours of sleep a night. If you have trouble sleeping try to have a routine of at least 30 minutes exercise during the day and keep pre-bedtime activities relaxing.