Superior slumber secrets | Sunday Observer

Superior slumber secrets

20 June, 2021

If you would relish food, labour for it before you take it; if you enjoy clothing, pay for it before you wear it; if you would sleep soundly, take a clear conscience to bed with you - Benjamin Franklin

There are only a few other things as coveted as sound sleep. Medical experts say it adds years to your life and increases your happiness. However, some of us are unable to enjoy blissful nights for some reason or another. It is a myth that young people sleep well. Sometimes they too are deprived of sleep due to various physical or psychological reasons.

Sleep is a biological need. An adult needs at least six to eight hours of sleep. According to a recent research, 66 percent of adults toss and turn in their beds without sleeping. If you are sleep deprived, you will feel tired the next day. If the trend continues, it will lead to depression, obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks. What is more, sleep deprivation is a major cause of Alzheimer disease and cancer.

Dr Matthew Walker of the University of California in his book “Why we sleep” says, “The silent sleep-loss is the greatest public health challenge we face in the 21st century.” He prescribes sticking to a strict sleep schedule. If you have a regular sleep-wake rhythm, it is good for the body. When you stick to a particular sleep schedule you will not be tempted to read a novel or watch television before bed-time. There are certain medicines that may conflict with a sleep schedule. According to health experts, certain drugs prescribed for colds, coughs, blood pressure and asthma will keep you awake. If you have such a problem, it is advisable to seek medical help.

Night watch brain

Some people find it difficult to sleep in hotels or other places. This happens when you experience what is called “night watch brain.” When you find yourself in an unfamiliar setting, you tend to rest only one half of the brain. We have inherited it from our ancestors who were always in fear of predators. Today you can minimize the problem by staying at familiar hotels when you go out. However, this may not be possible when you visit a foreign country.

If you are unable to sleep, you will not see dreams. Dreaming takes place during REM (Rapid eye movement), the last stage of the sleep cycle. However, earlier stages of your sleep can produce wisps of dreams. Sleep deprivation and REM deprivation can cause physical problems. According to a study done in 2017, those with fewer dreams are subject to “mood dysregulation.” The symptoms are recurrent temper outbursts, irritability, pain sensitivity, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety, dementia, and delusions. Unknown to us, dreaming helps us to maintain our sense of waking reality and balance.

If you want to see dreams, never take alcohol which may help you to nod off quickly. However, alcohol disrupts REM dreaming. Another culprit is the alarm clock. Instead of using an alarm clock, get used to waking up at a particular time following your biological clock. When you go to bed make a firm determination to get up at a particular time. You will naturally wake up sharp at that time. This is a time-tested method.

Pets in bedroom

In some countries people allow their pets to sleep in their bedrooms. According to Mayo Clinic researchers, most of the pets play around the bedroom until their owners fall asleep. However, there is no evidence that the presence of pets affected their sleep. The presence of a canine friend may be good for your protection but as far as sleep is concerned pets do not give us a better sleep.

There are common sleep disorders. For instance, in obstructive sleep apnoea, the muscles in the back of the throat relax too much during sleep, blocking your breathing. This is likely to cause a drop in blood-oxygen levels leading to heart diseases.

The sufferer will wake up to reopen his airways, but his partner will notice the sufferer’s snoring, gasping for breath and guttural sounds. You can check whether you have such a problem easily because in the morning you will wake up unrefreshed. You will also not be in a mood to get up and go about. Even during daytime you will feel sleepy. In addition, you will suffer from memory lapses.

Most married couples, parents and children share the same bed for sleeping. Children love to cuddle up next to their mother or father. When they do so, they release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that reduces stress and promotes pair bonding. If you are sharing the bed with someone else, see whether the mattress is large enough for two people. Bad sleep is linked to a poor relationship with your bed-mate.


What happens when you oversleep? If you sleep for more than nine hours at a time, you are likely to suffer from headaches, backaches, obesity and diabetes. Most people oversleep due to alcohol abuse or depression. Whatever the cause, if you tend to oversleep, you need medical help.

Sleep is closely related to ageing. Unlike a youth of 20, an adult of 70 will sleep for a shorter time. However, if an elderly person does not get adequate sleep, it will lead to many problems. The decline in sleep will adversely affect a person’s memory and health. To promote a deeper sleep among the ageing, scientists are experimenting with “transcranial direct current stimulation.” Those who are unable to sleep take sleeping pills which can increase sleep but not deep sleep. As a result, there can be negative consequences from taking sleeping pills.

Some elderly people take a nap usually in the afternoon. A nap is OK so long as it does not affect your sleep at night. There is growing evidence to suggest that the hippocampus – in the middle of your brain and in touch with both hemispheres – sends out new memories to the brain and reassembles them when needed. Interestingly, it seems to do most of its memory storage when you are asleep. In the same way that a computer backup data automatically works in the night, your hippocampus seems to dispatch the memories of the day for storage when you are asleep and dreaming. This is why a good night’s sleep is essential for learning.

Getting enough sleep is as important as taking time out to relax. A good night’s sleep is essential for preserving the fitness of your brain and it will give you the best chance to meet the coming day with a razor-sharp mind. The average person needs about six to eight hours of sleep a night. The number of hours may vary as you grow older.

Prolonged periods of insufficient sleep can deplete the immune system, make you more accident prone and even cause depression. At a time when we are facing a deadly virus, try to get sufficient sleep and boost your immune system.

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