How much sleep is needed
Generally, an average sleep of seven to eight hours is required by a healthy adult. However individual sleep requirements vary.
Insomnia – It is a condition where a person finds it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. It can be short-term insomnia, lasting up to three weeks, resulting from anxiety, nervousness and physical and mental tension or Long-term insomnia resulting from health conditions such as depression and can also be brought on by chronic drug or alcohol use, excessive use of beverages containing caffeine and abuse of sleeping pills.
Sleep Apnea – One finds trouble breathing during sleep in this disorder. Snoring, daytime sleepiness, and tiredness are the most common signs. Treatment may involve a change in sleep position, weight loss, or other non-invasive interventions.
Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder. Chronic daytime sleepiness, spells of muscle weakness, hallucinations and paralysis while falling asleep or awakening are few of the symptoms. Medications and lifestyle changes can help.
Jet Lag is the inability to sleep after having traveled across several time zones and your biological rhythms become “out of sync.”
Environmental Interferences: Distracting sleeping environment can be a barrier to sound sleep.
Give Yourself Time
Many sleep problems can be improved by changing your sleep habits, reducing stress, improving your diet or exercising. If problems persist, it may be time to seek professional help. Few aids to sound sleep:
- Consume less or no caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
- Exercise regularly, but do so in the daytime at least three hours before bedtime.
- Don’t stay in bed tossing and turning. If you can’t go to sleep after 30 minutes, get up and involve yourself in a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. Remember, try to clear your mind; don’t use the time to solve your daily problems.
- Keep a regular time table for going to bed and getting up every morning.
- A regular bedtime routine such as reading a book can surely help. It doesn’t matter what you do. Just be consistent and your routine will signal your brain that it’s time to snooze.
- Use the bedroom for sleeping or sex only so that your brain associates the bed and bedroom with sleep.
- Try drinking a glass of warm milk, which is high in L-tryptophan (a natural sedative).
- Drink less fluids before going to sleep.
- Avoid heavy meals and foods and drinks high in sugar close to bedtime.
Sleep and the Traveler
The most common sleep disorder faced by millions of travelers is jet lag which results from an imbalance in body’s natural “biological clock” caused by traveling to different time zones. When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms (24-hour cycle) are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days.
Following tips may be useful in minimizing some of the side effects of jet lag:
- Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 10 p.m. local time. (If you must sleep during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon, but no longer than two hours. Set an alarm to be sure not to oversleep.)
- Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip and later for a westward trip.
- Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time.
- Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least three to four hours before bedtime. Both act as stimulants and prevent sleep.
- Upon arrival at a destination, avoid heavy meals.
- Avoid any heavy exercise close to bedtime. (Light exercise earlier in the day is fine).
- Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping.
- Try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock.
- Bring elements or objects from home like a picture of your family to ease the feeling of being in a new environment.
Napping for more energy
A quick nap for few minutes can work wonders. This gives your body and your mind an opportunity to relax deeply. The best time to nap is usually in the mid-afternoon, approximately 8 hours after you arise and 8 hours before you go to bed at night. Try to cultivate the habit of napping at the same time each day, and for the same length of time. This helps to get your body into a comfortable napping rhythm.
When you nap, make yourself as comfortable as possible. Even if you don’t sleep, take a few minutes to treat your body and your mind to a deep relaxation exercise like breathing and progressively relaxing every muscle in your body, beginning with your toes and moving slowly up through your body to your scalp. Upon awakening, take a minute or two to stretch, walk around, and spritz your face with cool water or an aromatherapy toner/spray to help relieve any momentary feelings of grogginess.
Finally waking up in a pleasant way is just as important as getting a good night’s sleep. Leave your shades or curtains open so that the early morning light will signal your body that it’s time to rise.
Don’t leap out of bed, but take a few minutes to stretch and breathe, appreciating the blessing of another day of beautiful life and opportunities that await you.