Sleep, Mental Health & Well Being
-By Dr. Sewanu Awhangansi
The importance of having adequate sleep cannot be overemphasized. Sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. Both the body and the mind need substantial amount of rest to function at peak efficiency. Adequate sleep fosters both mental and emotional resilience, while prolonged sleep deprivation puts one at risk of mental and emotional instability.
Sleep needs vary across ages, with a steady decrease in total sleep duration noted as we grow older. The recommended average total sleep duration for adults is 7 – 9 hours over a 24 hour period, with those sleeping less than 5 hours and more than 9 hours per day considered short and long sleepers respectively.
For a night’s sleep to be considered good, it is expected that one should fall asleep quite easily, should not fully wake up during the night, should not wake up too early and also, one should feel refreshed in the morning. Anything short of this is generally considered inadequate for both our physical and mental health.
Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good night-time sleep quality and full daytime alertness.
Some of these good sleep habits include:
- Maintain a sleep schedule; go to bed and wake up about the same time each day
- Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week (preferably in the afternoons)
- Increase exposure to bright light during the day
- Develop a relaxing routine before going to bed, such as hot bath
- Establish a good sleeping environment, such as a quiet, cool, dark room
- Use the bedroom for sleep and sex
- Limit daytime naps to no more than 45 minutes
- Try a light snack before bed (e.g. warm milk or food high in Tryptophan like banana)
- Avoid stimulants 4-6 hours before bedtime (e.g. caffeine)
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime
- Avoid heavy, spicy or sugary meals and liquids 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Avoid late-afternoon naps (after 3pm)
- Avoid lying in bed awake
- Avoid taking your worries to bed
- Avoid watching television before bed time
Despite many of these points seeming commonsensical, it is surprising how many of them are ignored by many people on a consistent basis. Some of them are easier to include in our day and night routine than others. Making efforts to employ them will not only help us achieve restful sleep on one hand, but will also improve our productivity and overall quality of life.