How to get good Sleep?

Dr Nikhil Gupta
Good sleep is essential for one’s physical health and emotional well-being. It is not normal to feel sleepy during the day, to have problems in getting sleep at night, or to have heaviness in the head in the morning due to lack of sleep. Six to eight hours of sleep is considered normal for a healthy person. Disturbance in sleep can affect your mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress. Presence of sleep disturbances indicates underlying medical (arthritis, asthma, hypertension), or mental health problems (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, stress related problem). Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can lead to poor health, accidents, impaired job performance and relationship stress.
Common Sleep Disorders
Insomnia: Person suffers from difficulty in sleeping with no obvious cause.
Sleep apnea: Person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep.
Restless leg syndrome: Person feels tingling, pulling, creeping or painful sensations in the legs at night.
Narcolepsy: Person experiences episodes of excessive sleepiness which is intermittent, uncontrollable during the daytime. These sudden sleep attacks may occur during any type of activity at any time of the day.
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders: Person’s inability to sleep and wake at the times required for normal work, school, college, and social needs. But is generally able to get enough sleep and wake at the times dictated by his body clock.
Night terror or Sleep terror: Common sleep disorder among children involving abrupt awakening from sleep in a terrified state.
Assess yourself for sleep related issues
Do you….
* Feel not good, distressed or sleepy during the day?
* Have urge to have nap when sitting still, watching television or reading?
* Feel tired or dizzy while driving
* Have problems with attention/ concentration?
* You look tired?
* See/ experience change in your behavior in form of irritability or inability to control your emotions?
* Require caffeinated beverages to keep you going?
(If you say “yes” to three or more items, it indicates that you have sleep related problems)
Sleep problems can manifest due to anxiety, depression, lack of structure in daily activities, medical conditions, unrealistic expectation regarding the amount of sleep, use of alcohol, caffeine, tobacco (smoking/smokeless) before bed time.
What can I do?
* Go to bed only when you are ready to sleep.
* If unable to sleep within 15-20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing (like reading).
* Try to keep a regular sleep/ wake schedule.
* Wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends and holidays. Maintain regular bedtime and rising time.
* Avoid nap: If you have to take a nap, try to keep it to less than 30 minutes and avoid taking nap after 3 PM.
* Practice regular exercises, aerobics, yoga and meditation for relaxing. Avoid them at least 4 hours before bed time.
* Practice relaxation techniques.
* Maintain sleep hygiene.
* Avoid cigarettes, alcohol, and excessive caffeine. Do not use them as sleep aid.
* Avoid sleeping pills, or use them cautiously as per advice of your physician.
* Understand that bed is meant for sleeping. Do not read eat watch TV, talk on phone, or play board games in bed.
(If your sleep problem persists, please visit your doctor)
(The author is Registrar, Department of Psychiatry ASCOMS & Hospital, Jammu)