Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

A Good Night’s Sleep

All of us need a good night’s sleep.

This might sound obvious, but it is surprising to learn how many people actually do get a good night’s sleep – which for adults is an average of 7 to 8 hours per 24 hour period. Not only should the QUANTITY of hours you sleep be adequate, the QUALITY of this sleep (where you get enough deep and restful sleep) must be adequate.

Sleep is a time of Rest, Repair and Rejuvenation for the body after it has spent the day in physical and emotional activity. While we sleep, channels in the brain (which make up the recently discovered Glymphatic System) open and help not only to distribute essential nutrients like glucose, amino acids and essential fats to the brain cells but also to flush out waste materials from the brain. Interestingly, we now know that this Glymphatic System functions mainly during sleep and is essentially disengaged while we are awake.

During periods of deep sleep, our bodies produce substances like Cytokines and Antibodies that are essential for our immune systems to function effectively. During the deepest periods of sleep (termed ‘REM Sleep’, which is linked to periods of vivid dreaming) thoughts about most of the emotional things that went on during the day are consolidated. They are processed and shifted as it were from the short term memory to the long term memory. This is thought to be important for your psychological health – it has been shown that if you don’t get enough REM sleep, you wake up feeling quite irritable.

So how can you ensure that you get sleep that is adequate in quantity as well as quality? While there are a few folk who need only five to six hours of sleep a night to function (not because they are abnormal but because they are genetically programmed to function with less than the average amount of sleep required by the rest of us) most of us, even after we get past retirement age, need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.

One important thing we must do is to establish regular Sleep Habits. Try to get to bed around the same time each night, preferably around 9.30 to 10 p.m. Use your bed only for sleeping (and, if the need arises, for sex) but for nothing else – not for watching TV or studying or looking at your laptop or mobile phone. The ‘blue light’ that emanates from electronic screens suppresses the sleep hormone Melatonin and so makes it more difficult for us to fall asleep. Ideally, you should not look at electronic screens for an hour or so before bed.

Avoid taking caffeine-containing drinks like coffee, tea and aerated waters like Coca-Cola before bedtime.

If you find yourself waking up in the early hours of the morning – around 2 or 3 am – and are unable to go back to sleep, the best advice if you feel that you are not going to drift off to sleep again after about 10 or 15 minutes, is to get out of bed. Find a comfortable space – ideally one which you had prepared previously – with some really boring books or magazines, or some gentle music for easy listening. Just sit there, perhaps with a warm cup of milk that you can sip slowly, and spend some time until you feel relaxed and sleepy – and then go back to bed.

Just lying in bed, worrying about you being unable to sleep and how bad you will feel the next morning is certainly the worst thing you can do.

One comment on “A Good Night’s Sleep

  1. shivanthasmusic
    May 9, 2021

    Good article Tha. Glial Cells and the Glymphatic System. Good to know.

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This entry was posted on May 9, 2021 by in Health Matters and tagged , .
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