Sleep is a basic necessity for a human being, at par with eating food or drinking water. Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences that can range from memory issues, weekend immunity, lowered concentration and low sex drive, to long-term effects like higher risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. However, despite its necessity for our optimal functioning and general well0being, we rarely pay attention to our sleep.
Quality of sleep is equally important as quantity of sleep
As per expert Priyanka Salot, Co-founder, The Sleep Company, when assessing sleep, there are two main factors that we consider, quality and quantity. While the quantity of sleep has been the subject of many studies, quality of sleep has not received similar attention. This is a mistake since poor sleep, even if it is for long enough, can be equally adverse in its impact. Those of us who have spent a night tossing and turning, know how crippling a bad quality sleep is. Attention must shift towards addressing this issue by facilitating an optimal sleep environment through practising sleep hygiene and ensuring high quality bedding and mattresses.
Importance of sleep quality
Part of the reason for the lack of research in quality of sleep is the lack of a standard measurement to gauge it. A good quality of sleep is deemed on the basis of the ability of falling asleep within 30 minutes, sleeping through the night (or day), sleeping for the recommended hours as per one’s age, and falling back to sleep within 20-30 minutes in case of a disturbance. Most importantly, one must feel rested and energised after sleep.
These yardsticks to gauge sleep are clearly subjective and cannot always be standardised, making it difficult for researchers to quantify it. Yet, the quality of sleep is often even more important than its quantity. A good quality sleep achieves its main objective, that of feeling rested and restored while a long sleep may not achieve the same goal. In addition, a good quality sleep is also likely to be long enough to meet the criteria for its duration.
How to get good quality sleep
Now that we understand the importance of quality of sleep, how do we ensure it? If the status quo is not working, it may require some fundamental changes that must include internal and external transformations.
Practice sleep hygiene
This is a behavioural approach towards addressing sleeping problems. Good sleep hygiene involves the establishment and adherence to good sleeping practices, such as ceasing all physical activities, avoiding stimulants like alcohol and caffeine, and switching off phones and TV a few hours before going to bed.
Good quality mattresses and pillows
Mattresses and pillows are very important for a good sleep as anyone with a lumpy mattress or a flat pillow can attest to. Ideally, a mattress should be firm enough to support our back while cushioning smaller areas like shoulders. Similarly, pillows must be soft enough to be comfortable, yet firm enough to support the neck at the right angle.
Bedsheets and blankets are associated with the sensory comfort we need for a good sleep. Apart from the texture, fabric can also matter in creating temperature regulation. In winters, blankets or quilts must be thick enough to insulate us from the cold.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Sleep is very often linked to our lifestyle. Improving one’s quality of sleep should therefore, involve more long-term changes, such as reducing the intake of acidic or fatty food and sticking to a schedule for dinner, followed by sleep. Regular exercise can stabilise our mood, helping to decompress the mind. Avoiding high stress or learning to deal with stress factors in our life can also help to calm our mind, which eventually leads to a good sleep.
Modern lifestyle with its high stress and distractions in the form of mobiles and tabs have created an environment that is often disruptive and harmful to our sleeping patterns. However, correcting these behaviour patterns is as necessary to good health as following a healthy diet or exercising regularly. Other than taking out long enough to sleep, we must also ensure a good quality sleep that leaves us rested and energised.
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