We sleep six to eight hours a day, which represents almost 25% of our life. This is profoundly disproportionate to our knowledge of sleep and sleep patterns. Jagruti, Swapna, Sushupti and Turiya are all different states of wakefulness and sleep mentioned in our ancient scriptures. These correspond well with what we now know about the different stages of sleep. Research and studies that have been conducted on sleep over the past three to four decades have all alluded to sleep deprivation as a public health epidemic, the need to get seven to nine hours of sleep and sleep with others for comfort. Yet we are witnessing an increase in the number of patients suffering from disorders and their debilitating consequences on our health and well-being.
“Young people today spend a lot of time staying awake at night. This has unimaginable negative consequences. Our study showed that teenagers, who sleep less than six to seven hours a day, tend to suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There are more children today than ever who suffer from anxiety, depression, bad decisions and emotional outbursts. So we need to embrace sleep hygiene for our collective well-being,” says Dr. Vivek Nangia, Head of Pulmonology at Max Hospital in Saket. It is important to understand the science behind sleep, the causes and consequences of sleep disorders, and lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of such disorders.
1) What are some of the most crucial benefits of a good sleep regimen?
Sleep is crucial for many reasons. It helps the body to regenerate, ensures cellular repair, allows the consolidation of memory and restores the functions of the body. It also regulates the functioning of the immune system which allows antibodies to work better and reduces the chances of infection. Good sleep ensures regular hormonal balance and a good circadian rhythm.
Some consequences of lack of sleep include emotional disturbances and hyperactivity, stress and anxiety. When sleeping, the body seems to rest, but along with this it performs an important function of recovering from the damage that has occurred in the body throughout the day. This is what allows you to be fresh and functional the next morning.
2) What is the right amount of sleep an individual needs? Does it depend and vary by age?
It depends a lot on age. Newborns need 14 to 15 hours of sleep per day, followed by toddlers who need 12 to 14 hours. Teenagers need 10-12 hours of sleep, adults need 8-10 hours, and seniors between the ages of 50 and 60 need 7-8 hours. Finally, those over 60 should sleep 6 to 7 hours a day.
3) What are the different types of sleep disorders? Could you specify their causes and consequences?
There are four types of sleep disorders: insomnia, parasomnia, hypersomnia, and circadian rhythm disorder.
Insomnia is a condition in which people are unable to sleep or even if they do, wake up after a short time. Parasomnia occurs when an individual experiences an altered pattern of behavior while sleeping. Hypersomnia is excessive sleepiness but at the wrong time. Circadian rhythm disorder is a condition in which the individual is awake at night but sleeps during the day.
Each of the four will have different causes and complications. Some causes of insomnia include depression, anxiety, stress, work pressure, and excessive consumption of coffee and tea in the evening.
Hypersomnia could be the result of obstructive sleep apnea. It is a condition in which a person has a disrupted life, wakes up in the middle of the night and/or feels short of breath or suffocated. People who experience it are unable to wake up fresh in the morning and tend to feel dizzy and tired throughout the day. They are likely to fall asleep while performing routine activities, including driving, which could prove fatal.
Obstructive sleep apnea leads to multiple complications, including hypertension, diabetes, stroke or cardiac arrest, and heart disease. This further leads to a significant drop in performance levels.
4) What role does screen time play in sleep disorders?
Whether or not you suffer from a sleep disorder, for good sleep hygiene, I would indiscriminately recommend that every individual keep all screens, including laptops, televisions, and cell phones, out of their bedroom. Soft music, dim lighting and a good aroma should enhance the atmosphere and set the stage for a good night’s sleep.
5) How can those who work long hours, driven by deadlines, maintain sleep discipline?
It is important for them to adjust their schedules. What they incur is sleep debt and studies show that by staying awake late at night, subjects showed lower levels of performance than someone who had a good eight hours of sleep. Numerous studies conducted on athletes have made it mandatory for them to get at least eight hours of sleep the night before their big day. This is done to ensure that they work best the next morning.
6. What if we compensated for the lack of sleep at night by sleeping as much during the day?
This is a misconception that urgently needs to be combated. It is not normal to sleep during the day after skipping a night’s sleep. Nothing compensates for these, not even equal hours of sleep during the day.
This is mainly because an individual’s body has been set to a circadian rhythm since birth. This includes schedules you’ve followed your whole life, like waking up to sunlight. If you try to change this rhythm, your biological clock will not adapt to it and, if disturbed, will create complications.
7) How can night workers maintain a good sleep schedule and prevent disturbances?
You should continue such work until your body allows it, and then change it. What’s concerning isn’t just their current sleep schedule, but the fact that it would take them almost four years to get back to what you might call good sleep hygiene, according to studies.
8) What are the corrective measures that could be incorporated into his everyday life to prevent the occurrence of sleep disorders?
Some lifestyle changes are crucial. These include setting a sleep schedule, setting regular bedtimes, avoiding soft drinks and alcohol in the evening, avoiding exercise in the evening and limiting it to the morning, light low carb dinner, take a short walk and keep the rooms tech-free.