Nap it up: Sleeping for wellbeing

A good dose of sleep can help you eliminate stress, improve your energy levels, recover from or ward-off diseases

SleepingGetting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Your body and brain "recharge" themselves during sleep - so if you don't get enough sleep, you can't be at your best the next day.

You're probably not getting the sleep you need if you:

  • Feel groggy and lethargic in the morning
  • Feel drowsy during the day
  • Need more than 30 minutes to fall asleep
  • Wake up frequently during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.

While everyone has different sleep needs, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that most people get 6-7 hours of sleep per night. And, it's not just the number of hours that count - it's also the quality of the sleep. It's important to get an uninterrupted, restful night's sleep.

Causes

Insomnia is a common feature and is prevalent in young and old alike. A decreased level of melatonin in the brain is one reason why people are not able to sleep. Stress, depression or a deficiency in magnesium or iron could be other causes for insomnia. Sometimes, there is a hormonal imbalance or individuals suffer from RLS [restless leg syndrome] which prevents you from getting adequate sleep.

There are other reasons, but what is more important is how to treat insomnia. The more natural the cure is for insomnia, the better it is, for drugs can have many side-effects.

Causes of lack of sleep:

  • Tension and worry
  • Anxiety
  • Overwork
  • Anger
  • Suppressed resentment
  • Overeating
  • Constipation
  • Excessive drinking of tea and coffee
  • Smoking.

Natural cures

What you eat or drink before retiring for the day may have an impact on your sleep pattern.

    • Ensure that you do not overeat and also that you do not take any stimulating beverage like coffee
    • Stick to the good old glass of warm milk. It contains tryptophan, which gets converted into serotonin [the feel-good chemical] and then to melatonin - the sleep-inducing chemical
    • Avoid eating sweets and try to eat magnesium-rich foods for dinner
    • Magnesium is a natural sleep-inducing element and is found in legumes, dark leafy vegetables, almonds, and whole grains.
    • Honey is also said to promote sleep and is a good wholesome natural cure for insomnia. Two teaspoons in a large cup of water should do the trick.
    • Another cure for insomnia is to take a pinch of cinnamon, and roast it until it turns black. Boil this in water [a glassful] and take it just half-an-hour before you want to retire. It is professed to work.

The use of vitamins and minerals in our lives cannot be emphasised enough. Calcium, vitamin B and vitamin D contribute in regulating the nervous system. Approximately 1,200 mg calcium, combined with about 400 units of vitamin D and B complex should in the long run ensure that your insomnia is cured.

  • According to ayurveda, insomnia is because of vata imbalance. Massaging with oil on the extremities with either warm mustard or sesame oil is said to cure insomnia.
  • Aromatherapy is gaining ground as a natural cure. Chamomile and lavender oils also promote sleep and lengthen sleep time, making individuals feel refreshed.
  • A lavender sachet under your pillow, or two drops of lavender oil applied to the temples is believed to induce sleep. The oil helps muscles to relax, and decreases metabolic activity.
  • Massaging the neck and shoulders with a few drops of either chamomile, lavender, sandalwood or rose oil is very soothing and calms the nerves. Not only does massage increase the circulation of blood, but also helps to push the lymph fluids into the blood stream thus ensuring optimum utilisation of body chemicals.

Breathing exercises like pranayama hasten sleep.

Learn to breathe deeply and slowly to involve the diaphragm as you inhale and exhale and focus on your breathing. This encourages you to divert your mind from anything that is stressful. This should also soothe and calm your nerves lulling you to sleep. Yoga postures that you do lying down without any strain while listening to relaxing music also de-stresses your body.

So, make sure you get your daily dose of sleep to ensure healthy longevity.

How much sleep do we need?

If you wake up feeling refreshed, and you don't feel sleepy during the day, you are getting enough sleep. If you have an occasional night of poor sleep, you probably will need to sleep more the next night to make up for it.

The amount of sleep that you need depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Genetic make-up
  • Amount of exercise you get
  • Type of activity during waking hours
  • Age
  • Quality of your sleep.

A profound change takes place in the physiology of sleep as a person ages. The change is noted in the quality of sleep - not quantity [hours slept]. Most markedly, the phase of "deep" and restorative sleep, is found to be deficient in seniors and the elderly. While the average adult experiences "deep" sleep twice per night, this is decreased, or sometimes even absent, in older adults.

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