This year World Sleep Day is being celebrated on March 17, 2023. The theme for this year is “Sleep is essential for health”.
What are the health-related benefits of normal sleep?
The purpose of normal sleep is not only to make us feel refreshed and relaxed, but the benefits of sleep go beyond that.
Migraine: People with migraine, who sleep less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours per night have a higher risk of getting headaches. Maintaining normal sleep duration and regular sleep patterns (going to bed at the same time daily) can reduce the headache frequency and severity.
Heart attack: Insomnia is not considered a traditional risk factor for myocardial infarction (heart attack). However, in a recent study, it was found that people with insomnia had a 69% higher risk of getting a heart attack as compared to those with normal sleep. The risk of getting a heart attack was highest in those who slept < 5 hours per night. The risk of heart attack also increased with oversleeping (>9 hours per night).
Stroke: The relationship between sleep duration and stroke risk is also U shaped. The risk of stroke is higher in people sleeping less than 5 hours or more than 9 hours. The lowest risk of stroke is seen among people sleeping 6-8 hours. In addition, stroke patients with a history of short sleep duration have a higher risk of death.
Cancer: Poor sleep quality is also linked with a higher risk of cancers, especially in the elderly and Asian populations.
Obesity: People who sleep less have a higher risk of being overweight or obese. This is not only linked to higher chances of snacking at midnight or at late hours, but also due to an imbalance in hunger and satiety hormones. People tend to feel hungrier if they are sleep-deprived.
Diabetes control: If a diabetic sleep lesser than 7 hours per night, it becomes harder to control their sugars. They have greater insulin resistance. They also feel hungrier leading to excess calorie intake.
Hypertension: People with sleep deprivation have a higher risk of developing hypertension. In hypertensive patients, BP control gets poorer with shorter sleep duration. BP increase is also seen in rotational shift workers or those doing only night shift duties.
Psychiatric diseases: People with insomnia have a higher risk of being depressed or anxious. Similarly, those suffering with depression or anxiety sleep lesser.
What is meant by normal sleep?
Normal sleep is night sleep, which lasts 7-9 hours. Similar sleep initiation timing should be maintained on all days (can vary by 30 minutes) to maintain a normal sleep rhythm.
Daytime sleep is not natural between 5 to 60 years of age. An older person can have biphasic sleep- a daytime sleep of 1-2 hours in addition to 5-6 hours of night sleep.
What are the natural ways of maintaining a normal sleep patterns?
- 1. Maintain good sleep hygiene- initiate sleep at the same time every day (with 30 min variation at the most)
- 2. Avoid late-night parties, meetings, and functions as much as possible,
- 3. Avoid using electronic gadgets during sleep time and keep phones in silent mode,
- 4. Keep the room lights off and maintain a comfortable room temperature.
- 5. Use the bedroom only for sleep (and not for food)
- 6. Try to have dinner about 2-3 hours prior to sleep time.
- 7. Short walk or a warm shower 30-60 minutes before sleep could help.
- 8. Avoid tea or coffee after 6 PM
- 9. Avoid daytime naps.
- 10. If you have to snore, get screened for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If OSA is identified and treated, it can improve sleep quality.
Are sleeping pills safe to use?
Sleeping pills (sedatives) are prescription drugs. They should be used only under medical supervision. Strictly follow the dose and duration (of use) as specified by the doctor. There is a risk of dependence if used for a long duration.
Dr Sudhir Kumar
Senior Consultant Neurologist,
Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills.
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