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Vandana Kohli
Vandana Kohli


Sleep it off


A colleague cancelled an after-lunch appointment an hour before its scheduled time. “I can’t keep awake,” she admitted. “My son kept me awake last night. I really need to crash for a bit.”

This wasn’t unusual for her. Her four-year-old son often slept restlessly, turning over and kicking her in his sleep, several times through the night. She would then go through the motions the following day in a daze, unable to find time for a short nap or any other way to catch up on sleep. This could happen to her for several nights in a row, after which she would become irritable and snappy, unable to concentrate on, or execute, anything more than the basics.

Less sleep

Even more than food, the body and brain need a certain number of hours of sleep to be able to function normally. Sleep is the time when the body heals and the mind rejuvenates itself. It is essential though, that the hours of sleep are restful and not fragmented or disturbed.

Several causes can affect sleep. A recent illness or medication from it can impact the quality of sleep. Mental or emotional disturbances—uncertainty at work or in a relationship—can cause temporary insomnia from the underlying anxiety one experiences. An over-worked mind is often at the root of disturbances in sleep.

However, other factors are equally important to check on. Smoking and drinking before bedtime have long been associated with disrupted sleep. The intake of caffeine, either in coffee or in tea, also affects most people. A friend recently declined an after-dinner cup of green tea. She said the caffeine in green tea kept her awake. Instead, she chose chamomile, a herbal infusion known to soothe the mind and body.

Age is another factor that impacts the amount of hours one sleeps and the quality of sleep as well. Elder people often experience lack of adequate sleep, even though they may go to bed early enough. My grandmother-in-law would leave her room to saunter through the house at 2am, unable to sleep from restless leg syndrome, a condition that becomes worse with age.

Among the more common reasons for disrupted sleep these days, however, is exposure to blue light from gadget screens, and excessive noise. My friend’s lack of adequate sleep was caused by two factors. The first was that she would watch television right to the point of dropping off. This meant that her senses were stimulated where they could have been soothed.

The second factor was that the television would be on while her little son slept. The impact of noise on his subconscious mind seemed to play out in his sleep. On the nights when the TV wasn’t on, he seemed to sleep better than when it was.

Better sleep

Experts recommend to get out of bed and do or read something relaxing, rather than lie awake in bed. My grandmother-in-law began to play sudoku at 2am, till she would feel sleepy again and go back to bed.

Stimulants are best avoided at night. These could be substances such as nicotine, alcohol or caffeine, or they could be excessive noise and light from TV programmes or the internet.

For young minds, this is even more important. Children and teenagers are constantly soaking in all kinds of stimulation from the environment, consciously or not. A child sleeping in the same room where the TV may be blasting, will be affected by it, rather than not.

My friend found this out for herself. She turned the TV off as soon as her child came to bed. It helped both him and her, sleep better. 

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The Week

Topics : #Mindscape | #opinion

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