For sound sleep
How many of you are blessed with sound, undisturbed sleep every night? If your answer is in the affirmative, you are one of the fortunate ones!
Complaints of inadequate sleep, difficulty in falling asleep or not maintaining sleep long enough to wake up feeling fresh are becoming increasingly common these days. It isn’t how long one sleeps that counts — it is the quality of sleep which is more important: how deep one has slept and how energetic and enthusiastic one feels after waking up. This is the key aspect in determining quality of sleep.
If you suffer from sleeplessness for a day or two, you need not worry. However, if you don’t sleep most nights for more than a month, it may lead to severe fatigue, anxiety, depression and lack of concentration. Hence, sleep deprivation should be addressed at the earliest. Insomnia, as this condition is called, increases steadily with age and is reported by almost one in three individuals aged 65 years and above.
Insomnia is occasionally a symptom of an underlying medical or psychological condition but it may also be caused by stress or lifestyle changes. About 50 percent of insomnia cases have no identifiable cause.
Some of the identified causes of insomnia include:
- Uncomfortable and unfamiliar sleeping environment. l Disruption of circadian rhythms — such as working night shifts, change in work schedule, jetlag, late-night parties, etc. l Substance abuse — smoking, excessive consumption of caffeine/alcohol/recreational drugs.
- Blue screen before retiring to bed: excessive exposure to mobile/computer screen or watching television before sleeping. l Certain illnesses/medications.
- Difficulty in falling asleep, despite being tired.
- Not feeling refreshed after waking up in the morning. l Impaired ability to perform normal activities: daytime drowsiness, irritability, difficulty in concentration. l Lethargy, generalised body ache and feeling of heaviness.
- Insomnia lasting from a single night to a week, usually caused by events which alter normal sleep patterns such as travel or sleeping in an unfamiliar environment, may not need any immediate medical intervention.
- If insomnia carries on for about two to three weeks and is due to emotional factors such as worry or stress, it may be set right with slight lifestyle modifications and mind control.
- Regular practice of meditation will help in calming one’s mind. Meditate once in the morning and before going to bed to curb stress and aid in undisturbed sleep.
- Keep physically active. A daily routine of a brisk walk for 45 minutes/aerobics/surya namaskar, a set of yogasanas or any sort of physical exercises will certainly be helpful. Consuming sugarcane juice/meat soup/khus-khus kheer/warm buffalo milk before bedtime may help in inducing sleep. You can add one or two strands of pure saffron to the kheer/milk to achieve better results.
- You can coax your partner to massage your scalp and feet just before you sleep. Gently massaging the scalp and soles with few drops of coconut oil/gingelly oil especially before bedtime helps the body and mind relax.
- Avoid excessive consumption of coffee, tea, soft drinks, alcohol, and smoking. These are all causes of insomnia. Eat a light, early and easily digestible dinner. Avoid incompatible, heavy to digest, spicy foods at night.
- Don’t look at blue screens (mobile/computer/TV) at least one hour before going to bed. Ensure that none of these enter your bedroom.
- If sleeplessness is due to existing/underlying medical problems, the same must be addressed on priority.
- A fixed sleep time routine is helpful. The bed should be neat and clean and the bedroom calm and quiet. A noiseless room without excessive light is an important criterion. You can use an eye shade and ear plugs. Choose a bed and pillow which you find comfortable. Your bedsheets should be soft, smooth and light coloured.
- Avoid anything that tends to disturb your mind before sleep time. Avoid stimulating discussions or arguments. Strictly avoid horror/tragedy/stimulating books or videos. A brief workout followed by a warm shower before retiring will certainly help you snooze happily.
- Strictly avoid all causes of insomnia before opting for medical treatment. Many times mere avoidance of the aetiological factors and following these tips is sufficient for tackling insomnia.
- Single herbs like Ashvagandha, Brahmi, Tagara (Himalaya) are useful. l Regular full body oil massage with Ksheerabala taila (any reputed pharmacy) or stress-relief massage oil (Himalaya) is helpful. l If all the preventive measures and suggested medicaments haven’t provided you relief within a fortnight, you should consult an Ayurveda physician who could recommend a suitable procedure like shirodhara/shiro basti/netra tarpana/karna poorana to free you from the clutches of insomnia.
Dr Srikanth is a postgraduate in Ayurveda and has been a consulting physician for the past 19 years. He is currently National Manager, Scientific Services, at The Himalaya Drug Company.