What is normal sleep and how much do you
need? When a car has been running for some time, it has to be
overhauled at a garage, to clean and mend faults, so it can run
smoothly. Similarly sleep recharges our batteries; repair work
is carried out, and poisons and toxins cleared from the system,
so that next day, we work efficiently. Dreams are cleansing
mechanisms, as problems not solved during the day surface at
night, and the body attempts to deal with them so they stop
bothering us the next day. On an average, seven to eight hours
of sleep is enough for healthy adults, and anything less than
four hours, or more than nine hours reduces our life span. Sleep
alternates between REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid
eye movement) sleep. Our nights begin with NREM sleep for 45-60
minutes, and goes on to REM sleep in 80 minutes. This goes on
throughout the night in alternate cycles of 90 to 110 minutes.
In REM sleep, BP and heart rate become irregular and breathing
muscles become lax, so chances of heart attacks and disturbed
breathing are more. Thyroid and adrenal gland secretions, which
control our metabolic rate and reaction to emergencies reduce
and we are prone to ill-effects of temperature fluctuations.
Robbers appear to have studied sleep patterns because they
strike when we are in REM sleep!
Reasons for sleeplessness
Bright lights, even a luminous clock, external sounds, a snoring
bed partner, extremes of temperature, an uncomfortable bed,
unpleasant smells, and pain could cause sleeplessness. There
could be neck, head pains, cardiac and hyperacidity problems,
general body ache and leg cramps.
Tips for managing insomnia
• Cut down on daytime sleep
• Increase physical activity
• Take a light but adequate dinner
• Have a glass of milk at night , Milk contains tryptophan, a
natural sedative. Reading is a good sleep inducer. You can also
try soft music and meditation.