Sleep Killers

Don't blame your neighbours, the roadside dog, mosquitoes, your boss, and the rest of the world for your sleepless nights. The fault may lie with what you do

young woman trying to sleepToday's fast-paced life forces us to cram work, exercise and socialise all in one day with a good deal of travel and late night dinners thrown in. Add to that frequent coffee breaks and long conversations on mobile phones and what we get is insomnia, which is defined as
the chronic inability to fall asleep or to enjoy uninterrupted sleep.

Improper sleep for a month or more affecting daily life is called chronic insomnia, while that lasting for less than a month is called transient insomnia. Lifestyle factors are more likely to cause the latter. But if the same factors continue, transient insomnia can turn into chronic.

Let us take a look at some of the culprits that rob us of our well-deserved sleep.

Night-talk

While it is common knowledge that caffeine and stress cause problems in falling asleep, a new research suggests that having late night chats on your mobile phone can actually keep you from falling asleep. Cell phones emit microwave radiations that alter your brain waves. According to a report in the Scientific American, after a 30-minute exposure to cell phone signals in talk mode, people took nearly twice as long to fall asleep as they did when the phone had been off or in standby mode.

If you are in the habit of having late-night cell phone conversations and suffer from disturbed sleep, you could try a week of avoiding long calls nearing bedtime and see if it makes a difference.

Spice is not always nice

Eating a big spicy dinner close to bedtime disturbs sleep by causing acid reflux. Experts recommend no more than 600 calories for dinner at least two hours before bedtime. If your sleep gets interrupted by frequent tripts to the toilet at night, your fluid intakes must ideally stop 90 minutes before bedtime.

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine mentions that alcohol may seem to promote onset of sleep, but it tends to shorten the overall sleep time. It can also provoke acid reflux leading to disturbed sleep. So resorting to a brandy as a nightcap may not be the best idea for you, if you think you aren't sleeping as much as you should. Try something soothing like a glass of warm milk or a cup of chamomile tea, both of which have mild sleep-inducing and relaxing properties minus the side-effects of alcohol.

Workout trouble

With everyone wanting to a 'size zero' figure and six packs, it is not uncommon to hit the gym post-work hours, sometimes very close to bedtime. Now, the relationship between exercise and sleep is a confusing one.

One belief is that exercise tires the body promoting good sleep, and the other is that it revs up the body and brain, thereby making it difficult to fall asleep. Studies prove that moderate exercise in the day time improves sleep onset as well as the duration. It is not very clear as to how many hours before bedtime should one exercise, as the effects vary from person to person. Stress hormone levels in the blood are higher immediately after a workout and they take time to come down. This is why people who have difficulty going to sleep, are recommended to exercise kept before late afternoon.

Stress on the job

Stress at work leading to insomnia and thereby reduced productivity at work is a vicious cycle. A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology has proven the link between work-related stress and the development
of sleep problems.

Giving up the coffee breaks, unnecessary internet browsing and hanging around the water cooler can free up a lot of time for focused work. This in turn, means that you can leave early and enjoy a healthy work-life balance.Frequent international travel and the resultant jet lag can throw your biological clock out of gear due to rapidly traversing time-zones. Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, is now prescribed for jet-lag induced problems. The timing of the dosage is very important. A paper published in the Indian Journal of Aerospace Medicine found that melatonin delays the circadian rhythms when taken in the morning and advances them when administered in the evening.

These are some pointers which may affect your sleep patterns. If the problem persists, consult your doctor, who can either prescribe medicines to aid sleep or refer you to a sleep specialist. Taking sleeping pills recommended by your friend or relative could be dangerous.

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