In recognition of the fact that good sleep is one of the most necessary ingredients to good health, Australia celebrated sleep awareness week from 4th to 10th July. For something that is so essential to our wellbeing, we are extraordinarily careless about maintaining proper sleep habits and monitoring our sleep disorders. Inability to sleep peacefully has been known to be both a symptom of and a cause of stressful life, leading to inefficient functioning of cognitive and other body mechanisms. Although awareness has been rising, majority of Australian populace, especially leaders, still fail to acknowledge how important proper sleep is for creating a safer, healthier and more productive society.
Sleep is guided by our bodies’ circadian rhythms, being activated automatically every 24 hours. Sleep does not have a static nature. A person undergoes different cycles of sleep in one night. We move on from light sleep to deep sleep to REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and back again every 90 to 120 minutes. The cycle repeats every one and half to two hours.
Each type of sleep is important. REM sleep activates the learning area of our brain and causes dreams. Non-REM sleep is important for resting, repairing and growth of the body.
Common Sleep Disorders:
Sleep apnoea: a temporary halt in respiration due to blockage in the upper airway.
Insomnia: inability to fall to sleep or in staying asleep
Jet lag: change in circadian rhythm caused by travelling to a different time zone. A similar observation is made in people with night shifts.
Delayed sleep phase disorder: delayed sleeping and delayed awakening, an observation common among teenagers
Sleepwalking: common among children
Periodic limb movement disorder: involuntary spasms in leg muscles during sleep
Narcolepsy: sleeping during the day caused due to excessive tiredness
Common causes of sleep disorders:
Some medicine and drugs
Psychological ailments including depression, trauma and stress, among others
Pathological ailments including illness and breathing problems
Use of some contraceptives
Consequences of sleep disorders:
Negative mood changes – irritability, anger, depression, stress, anxiety
Trouble with focus and concentration
Daytime drowsiness and decline in productivity
Decline in physical strength and coordination
Difficulty in maintaining mental alertness
If left untreated for long, sleep disorders can cause graver consequences, including insanity. Most sleep disorders are easily cured with a little attention and discipline. Sleep is a matter of habit. You can train your body to sleep at when you want it to. So, you must ensure regularity in sleeping. Intake of caffeine and other stimulants past evening is not recommended. And it always helps if you finish your work on time so you are not overwhelmed with work at the last minute. This not only creates an unhealthy habit of working overnight, it also causes a lot of stress and the results are never great.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises are very helpful in bring balance in circadian rhythms, relieving stress and building healthy sleep patterns. A good night’s sleep can often cure our emotional fatigue and is important for healing our minds. So, have a happy sleep every day. Good night.