MBBS, MD (AIIMS, Gold Medalist), Diploma in CBT (UWS, Glasgow)
13 years experience
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The human body has an internal clock that is constantly reset by the activities you do and exposure to light. The clock determines for instance, that it is night if there is low light exposure, decreased activity and so on. So, if our routine is variable, the clock is confused. So the first thing to remember is to have a reasonably fixed time of going to bed and waking up.
The amount of sleep for a given 24 hour period is limited, akin to a mobile recharge with validity. We need to spend it wisely. So if you sleep during the day, you may not have a good night's sleep; if you spend data on unnecessary things, you will not have enough when you need it!
remember the restaurant where you had some really delicious biryani. The moment you walk into it, your mouth waters in anticipation. So too, your bed must make your body anticipate sleep; not work, tv or something else. In other words, reserve the bed for sleep, not for working, watching tv etc.
Sleep is a state of relaxation. Anything activating disturbs sleep. So do not take coffee, tea, cola after say 7 pm in the night!
there are other ways in which the body can feel activated, and therefore also interfere with sleep. Avoid watching action movies and listening to heavy music before sleeping time. Of course, the bed room must not be brightly lit or noisy.
What about exercise, it is always healthy right? yes, but exercise must be done well before the sleeping hours; lets say no exercise after 7 or 8 pm in the night. Why? while exercise during the day keeps you healthy, gets you tired and promotes sleep, if done late in the day, its activating properties interfere with sleep!
what if I don't fall asleep. Then I keep checking the time, keep rolling in the bed forcing myself to fall asleep. Bad idea! you try to fall asleep you become more alert, a phenomenon known as paradoxical intention! so what should you do? if you don't fall asleep, get out of the bed, sit on a chair and read a book. Don't do anything activating. Once you start feeling drowsy, get back to bed. Besides invoking paradoxical intention, you are also preventing the body from associating bed with struggling to sleep.
What about alcohol, it helps you fall asleep right? right and wrong! while it does apparently put you to sleep, it is associated with poor sleep quality. So you have slept without the benefits of having slept!
avoid heavy meals just before sleep
a warm water bath may be helpful
now for the practically most important advice! if you fell asleep late, still wake up at the scheduled time, even if it means feeling tired and drowsy the next day. You will feel troubled for a day or two, but will start having good sleep at the desired time at night. Also resist the temptation to take a nap during the day. If you wake up late or take a nap during the following day, the whole cycle will continue - sleep late, wake up late!
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