Sleep well to work well

As the Coronavirus necessitates lockdown and the promotion of work-from-home culture, the need to maintain a healthy sleep cycle has become more important than ever

India has entered the third phase of a lockdown. Imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19, the lockdown has changed people’s lives, their diet and has even impacted their sleeping cycle. In view of these changes and the importance of a healthy sleep cycle, it is important to pay close attention to these changes and understand its implications.

To better understand the importance of the effects of pandemic and the lockdown on sleep cycles, Dr Vivek Nangia, Director, Pulmonology, Medical Critical Care & Sleep Disorders, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi shares some interesting insights.

Dr Nangia, who is Trained in Sleep Medicine (Stanford, USA) and Pediatric Pulmonology (RBH, UK), says that a night of good sleep is considered to be restorative in nature and makes you wake up fresh. It helps in the reinforcement of memory, helps the circadian rhythm which in turn maintains cardiovascular and hormonal activities. All these, he says, help in boosting immunity and ensuring good mental health which is key in the fight against Coronavirus.

Due to the pandemic, people are facing unprecedented changes like restriction on movement and working from home. These have the potential to create an imbalance in their work, pleasure and relaxation balance. Many people are also facing a change in their sleep patterns. This, however, may not be such a good idea. Dr Nangia is of the opinion that “The time to sleep and the time to wake up should be consistent and regular. Not only should one ensure that the duration of sleep is adequate (according to age) but also that it is unfragmented and uninterrupted.”

Maintain a healthy sleep cycle

On the subject of sleep balance and time, Dr Nangia says that the duration of sleep should be independent of whether it’s a working day or a lockdown. Individuals should ensure they spend the optimum time as per their age in sleeping. He says, “While one-year-olds need roughly 11-14 hours, school-age children need 9-11 hours, teenagers 8-10 hours and adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.”

Signs you may not be getting enough sleep

Talking about the telltale signs of sleep deprivation and the problems it can have on the day to day functioning on individuals, Dr Nangia says, “The most common signs of sleep deprivation are yawning, mood swings, increased irritability and forgetfulness, fatigue and heavy-headedness, lack of motivation and concentration, clumsiness and a reduced sex drive.” So if these signs show up, it is best to take a look at your sleeping habits and make necessary changes.

Dr Nangia also says, “Persistent lack of sleep can result in excessive daytime sleepiness, emotional instability, poor performance at work, accidents at the workplace and on the roads and an overall lowered perception of the quality of life.”

Tips for a healthy sleep

For the maintenance of a healthy sleep cycle, Dr Nangia suggests the following measures:

Sleep hygiene: Good sleep habits go a long way in ensuring a sound sleep. The term ‘sleep hygiene’ refers to a series of such habits and rituals that can improve the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Exercise schedule: Regular vigorous exercise for 20-30 minutes during the day promotes a good night’s sleep but it should be at least 5-6 hours before bedtime. One should avoid heavy physical and mental work just before sleeping.

Yoga and meditation: Both serve as adjunct modes of therapy and can help improve sleep quality with no significant associated risks.

hat to avoid: Certain substances and activities, including eating patterns, can contribute to insomnia. Caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee, colas and alcohol and nicotine, should be avoided, especially in the evening hours. While a light snack is fine, large meals and beverages should be avoided before bed. This prevents gastroesophageal reflux and frequent urination at night.

If still no sleep: If despite all this, an individual is not able to sleep in 20 minutes, then one should not try too hard. The individual should get out of bed and perform some light non-stimulating activity like reading a book and come back to the bed only once the feeling of drowsiness has set in. One should remove all clocks and watches from view. Anxiously watching the minutes tick by when one can’t sleep is a sure-fire recipe for insomnia.

And while work from home comes with its privileges, people should avoid naps during the day. If one has to take a nap, it should be limited to no more than 30 minutes — and no nap after 3 pm.

Sleep enhancement

To ensure adequate quality sleep, Dr Nangia suggests that people take the measures that can prove helpful in ensuring they stick to their sleep cycle. These measures include making the ambience of the bedroom sleep-friendly. TV, computers, video games, smartphones or other screens should not be kept in the bedroom. The room temperature should be comfortable but certainly cooler than the day. Ambient temperature should be around 24°C. Dim lights, soft music, nice aromas, reading a light book can be helpful.

While for many the lockdown has thrown normal life out of gear, it should not be allowed to increase the problems faced by people. As problems in sleeping can have an effect on the quality of life, it should not be ignored. However, apart from the general irritability, mood swings and lethargy, a disturbed sleep cycle can have far-reaching effects.

Dr Nangia says, “Besides psycho-social-behavioural disorders that can result from sleep deprivation, there are so many other ill effects on our bodies. Lowered immunity is a predominant one, making an individual more susceptible to contracting infections, followed by certain types of cancers like breast and prostate, gastrointestinal upsets like constipation, flatulence and decreased appetite. Patients with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease experience a lowered life expectancy by 20%.”

Keeping all these things minds, everybody please make sure you get ample rest every night so you can power through these difficult days.

Dr Reshma is an advocate of wellness, prevention and holistic healthInstagram handle: dr.reshmakhattarbhagat