Sweat it out
“To ensure good sleep, it’s important that you tire your body out,” says sleep specialist Mohammad Hasin, “Exercising four hours before your sleep time is advisable. However, don’t wear yourself out. Keep the exercise pattern light. Opt for running, either outdoors or on a treadmill, cycling or a brisk walk. Weights and squats are best reserved for the mornings. When you exercise, you use up your energy. And when you are spent, sleep doesn’t evade you anymore.” Agreeing with him is gym instructor Meghna Raju. She says, “I’ve advised my clients to go for a jog in the evening, just before their dinner. This way, they feel relaxed and are also too tired to sit up in the night or indulge in other activities.”
Refrain from these
Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine have to be avoided during bedtime. Sleep therapist and a hypnotist, Tanusha Banerjee says, “Remember how you survived on cups of coffees during the nights when you crammed for your exam? Caffeine is a stimulant, and it can make us alert by temporarily blocking certain sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain. It also increases adrenaline production. So, avoid having anything caffeine in the night time.” He adds, “Wine is relaxing and soothes your nerves; it goes well with your dinner. But, the alcohol content in it breaks down after a few hours and you end up compromising on your sleep quality. Again, stop smoking altogether, as it’s bad for health. If not, at least avoid it before bedtime.”
Music to the ears
Why do mothers sing lullabies to put their children to sleep? That’s because good music is associated with deep slumber, and several studies have proven that in the recent past as well. Says musicologist Vishal Chandra, “Good music blocks out other senses, thereby putting your mind in a state of rest. Listening to soothing tunes when you hit the sack is a good way to ensure long, undisturbed sleep. In fact, there are certain ragas, like the Neelambari, in Carnatic and Hindustani classical that are said to make for a good listen during bedtime. Albums comprising chants, notes and songs that are sleep-inducing are a good buy.”
Yes, counting helps. The old wives’ tale about counting sheep putting you to sleep is actually true. Studies have proved that cracking equations, solving math problems, counting numbers in your head slowly and backwards, or rattling out names of things in a particular category put you to sleep much quicker. Says Hasin, “Such complicated tasks force your brain to work and you soon tire out. But, a better way is the ‘relaxing imagery’ method, where you focus on relaxing visuals, even if it is that of a sheep jumping the fence! This way, you focus on pleasant things rather than the cause of your stress or worry, thereby helping you sleep better.”
The sleep psychology
Heard of the pink elephant dilemma? “You can’t not but think of a pink elephant when you are asked not to think about it. Same is the case with insomnia and sleep disorder as well. Don’t think you are going to be sleep-deprived for the rest of the night and this actually doubles your chance of sleeping well that night,” explains Banerjee.
Tips for a restful night
– Stick to a routine, and if you can, hit the sack at the same time every night.
– Rise early to sleep well in the night. Avoid afternoon naps and sleep overdose during weekends.
– Try sleeping in a dark, noise-free room with a comfortable temperature.
– Take a warm bath 30 minutes before bedtime. Follow it up with a warm glass of milk or water.
– To fall asleep quickly, focus on a point/object in the room and be overcome by slumber.
– If problem persists, consult a doctor.