Chinasa, a 27 year old single girl noticed that she felt sleepy most times in her work place. She is an optometrist who sparingly refracts patients. During periods that patients did not come, Chinasa often finds herself nodding and struggling to avoid sleep. This problem prompted her to go and see a sleep therapist. Her encounter with the physician was warm. Dr Chaudri Khoud, a Consultant Sleep Therapist made her understand that her problem was lack of adequate sleep. She carefully noted his views and advice on sleep.
What is sleep?
Sleep is a natural state of bodily rest. We have to sleep because it is essential to maintaining normal levels of cognitive skills such as speech, memory, innovative and flexible thinking. In other words, sleep plays a significant role in brain development.
How long is enough?
Seven or more hours sleep is healthy for the body. Dr. Khoud affirmed this by saying ‘’ In fact, when people get less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep each night, their risk for developing diseases begins to increase.’’
Any drawbacks for not sleeping long enough?
Lack of sleep can kill. Researchers have shown that a sizeable number of road traffic accidents were caused by sleepy drivers. Lack of sleep has serious effects on our brain’s ability to function. When people fail to sleep or have enough sleep the previous day they have problem with alertness and their memory is impaired. This can affect one’s output at work and even in relationships. It also reduces the body’s immunity to diseases. Lack of sleep also affects growth in children and the hormonal balance in the body.
How to tackle it when it just refuses to come?
Studies have shown that sleep comes in cycles. It is advisable for people to find out their body cycles. When you feel sleepy and you push it past and you find out that you would not be able to fall asleep very easily for a while. If you notice this, use it to your advantage and sleep when it comes, otherwise it may take a long time before you fall asleep again.
You can create a regular routine every night before you sleep. This is also called transition routine. Dr Khoud advised that people who regularly practice yoga meditation, pray or do some work out before they sleep, help their body to get used to this routine, thus inducing sleep soon afterwards.
Discover and eliminate distractions. These distractions include your television, which you should discipline yourself on when exactly to switch it off, the TV timer can be of help. Also remove your clock which may have luminescent hands, from your view. Looking at it while awake in the night can put you in a bad mood as you begin to fret over how long you have been awake. Ambient light coming from your window can be a distraction too. In this case you can use a darker and heavier curtain to shut such light out. If you have noise coming from outside, re-position your bed.
Avoid sleeping with pets if they cause you distraction and delay your sleep. If your partner or spouse snores, you can find another room or use an ear plug. However, you could be of help by advising him or her to stop smoking or drinking. Repositioning your partner’s head could help to eliminate the snore. Above all you can suggest to him or her to see a sleep therapist.
Sometimes, we battle with our pillows by turning them, pounding them and re-adjusting from time to time. In such instances Dr Khoud has this to say ‘’Go get a new pillow, you can as well try out a water pillow’’. Some experts advice that a little lavender spray on your bed sheet can create a scent that will help induce sleep.
What are the benefits of sleep?
Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol level, all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Your heart will be healthier if you get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Thus enough sleep keeps the heart healthy.
A sleep deficient body goes in a state of stress. Dr Khoud said ‘’ the body’s functions are put on high alert which causes an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones. Higher blood pressure increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes.’’ Sleep also makes one to be more alert.
Sleeps makes one smarter, it helps the body to repair worn out tissues and helps the body to reduce weight. Body cells produce more protein during sleep. These protein molecules constitute and form the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair damage.
Studies have shown that sufficient sleep also reduces the risk of breast cancer in women.
When asked to summarize his advice for those who always feel sleepy in the daytime. Dr Khoud quoted Jim Horne his lecturer at Loughborough University Sleep centre as he said ‘’ the amount of sleep we require is what we need not to be sleepy in the daytime’’.