As if we didn’t have our plates full with clean eating, now we’ve got clean sleeping too!
When docs call it sleep hygiene, it’s a yawn; when Gwyneth Paltrow sells it as sleeping clean, the world sits up and pays attention. Which is a good thing, because Paltrow can mainstream a boring-sounding concept (even if not the details: we don’t really need a skin-rejuvenating pillowcase set; sold out on Nordstrom, incidentally). What does it mean to sleep clean?
Long after we’ve gone to bed, our bodies work tirelessly to heal and repair cells from oxidation and stress-related damage. We don’t even have to think about it, because it all happens while we’re sleeping. You’ve heard it too many times before, but sleep is crucial for longevity, repair and recovery.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead?” That’s how a lot of us approach sleep these days. With deadlines at work, appeasing clients and social commitments, most of us struggle to get 6-7 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep. It’s no surprise that we wake up feeling tired and need copious amounts of caffeine to get through the day. In this frantic, always-connected, dog-eat-dog world, our need for sleep has never been more pronounced.
Sleep deprivation has very frightening and serious long-term consequences. It doesn’t just affect your mood and waistline, but also impacts blood sugar levels, slows metabolism and predisposes you to a plethora of problems like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, says Dr Manvir Bhatia, Director of Sleep Medicine at Neurology & Sleep Centre, Delhi. Symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation can cause people to become angry, irritable, depressed, with a tendency for frequent infections, due to lowered immunity.
That’s where sleep hygiene or sleeping clean comes in. It’s important to take corrective measures to establish a nightly ritual to get better quality and quantity sleep. Here are ways to promote deep and restful sleep, with inputs from Dr Sandeep Sindhu, a Delhi-based ENT surgeon and sleep specialist; and Dr Alok Sarin, Consultant Psychiatrist at Sitaram Bhartia.
Through the day
Cut out caffeine after noon.
Avoid going to bed either hungry or on a full tummy. About half an hour before, try a warm elixir of almond milk, honey, turmeric and ginger. Not more than 60 ml, because you don’t want to be awoken with a full bladder halfway through the night, interrupting sleep.
Do a little restorative yoga and yoga nidra before bedtime; a 15-minute practice will help you ease those frayed nerves.
Keep exercise to the morning or to the earlier hours of the evening.
Do resolve conflict before you head to bed.
Keep protein-rich foods to earlier in the day, as these take time (and energy) to digest.
In the bedroom
Dim the lights at a particular time each night and ‘retire’ to your rooms.
Establish a cut-off time for electronic devices. So no scrolling on Instagram and no responding to your colleagues post 9 pm. The blue light these devices emit blocks the production of melatonin.
Curl up with a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea (chamomile, for instance) and a calming book (not a spy thriller, preferably).
Ensure that the temperature in the room is comfortable, so as to allow sleep induction and relaxation. A room too cold will have you running to the bathroom and a room too warm will leave you tossing and turning.
Keep out mosquitoes by burning some lemon grass oil: you don’t want to be disturbed with bites!
When buying a mattress, lie down on it to check for comfort; don’t just sit on it. Test pillows in the same way. And if your existing mattress is sagging, consider buying a new one.
Sun out mattresses and pillows every few months, to prevent bed bugs crawling in.
Always use cotton covers; they’re healthier for the skin.
Avoid alcohol before you sleep — it may seem like it lulls you into relaxation, but it actually interferes with it, and you may wake up not-so-fresh.
Avoid popping a sleep-inducing pill (even if you’re jet-lagged) unless advised by a doctor.
Lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, putting you in a stage of relaxation, says the National Sleep Foundation, US. But if you have allergic rhinitis, you may want to avoid this one.