We work hard, party harder and sleep late. But we wake up early enough to reach office before the boss walks in. Five to six hours of sleep and we’re good to go, so why sweat it, right? Here’s why you should care: a study claims that more than 90% Indians are sleep-deprived and if you’ve been sleeping for less than 8 hours per day, you could be among them.
Long-term sleep deprivation increases the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease besides causing frequent headaches, acidity and a score of health problems. In fact, more than 50% Indians believe that their work suffers due to lack of sleep.
It’s time to wake up to the fact that sleep deprivation is a real problem; it could be hurting your health in more ways than one. But don’t take our word for it — listen to the expert.
Dr Bharat Shah, MD – Psychiatry (Lilavati Hospital Mumbai) gives you the lowdown on urban sleep problems and tells you how to get better sleep.
IB: Why are so many young Indians sleep-deprived?
Dr Shah: What would you want to do at the end of a long, tiring day? Most of us want to have dinner and go to bed. Now millennials, especially those in urban areas, have something more interesting than ‘sleep’ to look forward to—and that’s their devices: laptops, phones or tablets.
After they’re done with work or college, they invest a lot of time on these devices, either chatting with friends, watching videos or playing games. This, to them, is more interesting than getting a good night’s sleep. It’s a lifestyle issue.
IB: What happens to the body when I don’t get enough sleep?
Dr Shah: When it gets dark, the body produces a hormone called melatonin, which is meant to induce sleep. But when you spend time on your laptop or phone, the light from these devices disturbs your natural sleep pattern and you end up sleeping late. If you have to go to work or college the next day, you wake up early regardless of how late you’ve slept.
Over time, this forceful ‘staying awake’ and getting less sleep puts you in a loop of ‘disturbed sleep’. It leads to what’s called a sleep debt or sleep deficit, which directly impacts the brain and your overall performance and mood. You could end up facing problems in your everyday functions—you might find it difficult to concentrate at work, have frequent headaches or feel easily fatigued or irritated.
IB: How can I tell that I have ‘disturbed sleep’?
Dr Shah: Most millennials don’t even know that they are sleep-deprived. The biggest sign of disturbed sleep is when you plan on sleeping early but are simply not able to. You get distracted and stay up, wide awake, till your usual sleeping time. That’s a big red flag right there.
Needless to say, you must consult with your doctor to diagnose a sleep disorder. These signs point to a general lack of sleep or disturbed sleep:
– Poor memory
– Easily irritable
– Changes in appetite
– Frequent headaches
IB: How can I get better sleep?
Dr Shah: It takes a certain amount of discipline to fix your sleep cycle. One simple solution is to decide an early time of the day (say, 7 am) and wake up at the exact same time every morning regardless of what time you’ve slept. Do this for a couple of days—eventually, you will start feeling sleepy at an earlier hour of the night, and your sleep cycle might come back to normal.
Here are some more tips that might help:
– It’s important that you shut off your LED/back-lit devices at least 1 hour before you go to bed.
– Also try to shut out all the noise and practise deep breathing.
– Read books (not on a tablet, a real book) but make sure you read in the living room and go to bed only when you’re ready to sleep. Otherwise, you form a psychological association between reading and your bed (sleeping) and tend to feel drowsy each time you read.
– Be sure to rest it out and give your body the love it deserves.
Note: This article shares tips to help you sleep better. To diagnose and treat a sleep disorder, consult a doctor.