6 Bad Habits That Are Preventing Indians From Sleeping Well

05/04/2016 11:18 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Young Man Hugging Laptop in Sleep

It is incredible what a single night of blissful, uninterrupted sleep can earn you: a productive day at work, excellent (and faster) work-out results. If children get a good night's sleep everyday, they are also likely to grow taller, say experts.

However, an alarming increase in sleep disorders in India indicate that Indians are struggling to reap the benefits of a good night's sleep.

Work is making us sleepless...

“We seem to be content to sacrifice our sleep for success,” says Dr Vikas Agrawal, senior ENT surgeon and sleep apnoea specialist, Speciality ENT Hospital, Mumbai.“The problem is even more apparent in metropolitan cities where younger generations are working harder than ever to keep their heads afloat,” he continues. “Ten years ago, we didn’t have as much work as we do now, and we did sleep better.”

...But it’s not the only reason behind the country’s general state of sleeplessness.

Here are six small, but vital things that are messing with our sleep, and why it’s so important to ensure they’re taken care of right away.

Staying Up Late:

Many Indians end up compromising on the essential 7-8 hours of sleep (the optimum number of hours one needs to sleep for on an average) by simply staying up late, and then having to wake up early the next day. “This is especially noticeable on weekends, when one sleeps late and wakes up early on Monday, feeling tired even though there is an entire week of work stretching out in front of them,” says senior neurologist, and sleep specialist Dr Manvir Bhatia, who has also founded the Neurology and Sleep Centre, New Delhi.

“The best time to sleep is between 10 and 11pm, judging, of course, on the time you wake up,” says Alphonse Reddy, who founded India’s first online sleep start-up, Sunday Rest last year. The company also conducted a survey recently, covering approximately 350 families in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. It was found that Mumbai boasted of the most number of people who slept well after midnight. 32.72 per cent of Bengalureans sleep by 10 pm, compared to 10 per cent in Delhi and 12.8 per cent in Mumbai.

Eating Late:

Lying down on a full stomach can put pressure on your heart and lungs, making it difficult to breathe, and causes fitful sleep. According to Dr P Vijaya Krishnan, secretary to the IASSA (Indian Associations of Surgeons for Sleep Apnoea), the Maharajas of Rajasthan knew what they were doing by consuming their meals right before sunset (between 5:30-6:30pm).

“Keep a gap of an hour and a half between bedtime and your meals,” he advises. Dr Bhatia agrees, revealing that most of her patients eat late because they work late and want to come home to a hot meal, instead of consuming it in the office. “As Indians, we cannot sacrifice the luxury of a meal eaten in the comfort of our home to signal that the day is finally over,” she says.

Sleep Rest’s survey showed that Delhites lead the pack in this regard with a late night meal and a heavy one at that, which is directly related to a restless night and resulting obesity and heart issues.

indian sleep

Sleeping for over an hour in the middle of the day can also ruin your circadian rhythm

Not Relaxing:

“To sleep well, one needs to unwind and release the day’s tensions,” says Dr Bhatia. Television, laptops, comfort foods and drinking are not (surprise, surprise) the ideal way to relax or unwind from a hard day’s work (keep reading to find out why).

People also end up giving into drowsiness after work or right after dinner, instead of waiting for bedtime –- not a good plan, because you’ll wake up later in the night and have trouble falling asleep.

Exercise, and reading books (print, not on your electronic gadgets), are sure-fire ways of unwinding – especially the former because it encourages the release of endorphins, or ‘happy’ hormones.

Dr Bhatia also recommends deep breathing, meditation and Jacobson’s Relaxation Techniques. “Simply lie down and close your eyes if you cannot sleep – the idea is to adopt a pattern that your body recognises so it will get accustomed to falling asleep,” she says. “But none of this is possible if you insist working once home, or stressing yourself out.

A Heavy Dinner:

“Not only does our working lot tend to eat late, they also eat a heavy meal that can often be oily or hard to digest,” says Dr Krishnan. “This can cause an acid reflux: the stomach releases more acid for digestion. Once you lie down, thanks to gravity, the sphincter muscle opens up, and allows acid to travel far more easily to your throat, inducing a burning sensation that will wake you up,” he says, also ruling out any caffeine-based drinks before bed.

full stomach sleep

Don't overeat before you sleep

“A lot of Indians also partake in smoking post a heavy meal,” says Dr Krishnan. “While smoking is bad in any form, it acts as a stimulant further discouraging sleep, even though people believe it will help them sleep better after a meal.”

Consuming Vast Quantities Of Alcohol:

“Based on surveying several patients, I have observed that many Indians (especially men in North India) tend to drink too much in the evenings,” says Dr Bhatia. While it advisable to drink a single glass of wine or even scotch in the evening, ingesting vast quantities of alcohol can severely disrupt your sleep, even though they might initially appear to help you pass out.

“What’s worse is that we tend to consume our drinks before our meals unlike our Western compatriots who will eat their meal early (thus lining their stomachs) and then head out for a drink,” says Dr Bhatia. “Not only does one get drunk faster, he/she delays the meal even further, and passes out immediately after.”

Drinking alcohol also increases your appetite, so the chances of eating heavy and passing out after are high. “Once the alcohol levels in your body drop, you end up waking several times, spoiling any chances you had of getting a normal night’s sleep,” she says.

Sleeping Next To Gadgets:

“The more the gadgets around you, the more the disturbances," says Reddy. Sleep Rest’s survey showed that over 90 per cent of all bedrooms in metropolitan cities have a mobile phone, the trend being the highest in Bengaluru at 97 per cent. It also showed that Delhites were more likely to have laptops in their bedrooms. “People in India are very heavily dependent on their gadgets,” he says.

Self-luminous gadgets suppress melatonin, a natural hormone made by the pineal gland, that induces sleep. “If this part of the circadian rhythm is constantly disrupted, it can lead to different disorders, including sleep apnoea, a common but deadly killer,” says Dr Krishnan.

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According to a recent report by Times of India, studies have shown that 30-40 per cent of the working population, particularly those in high-stress jobs such as corporate executives, medical professionals and cops, don't sleep well. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), characterised by respiratory difficulties during sleep, affects 9-21 per cent of women and 24-31 per cent of men in the country. It has been linked to heart disease, obesity, hypertension, dyslipidaemia (abnormal levels of cholesterol fat in blood) and insulin resistance.

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