Sleep is not only essential for our physical health but also for our mental wellbeing. Our body tends to give out many signs when we’re tired and sleep deprived. But with our busy lifestyle and hectic schedules, we seem to be oblivious to these signs. Catching these early signs of sleep deprivation can help one overcome the possibilities of several sleep related disorders.
You can’t remember things
Research shows that sleep plays an important role in the connections between nerve cells and thereby affects memory. The lesser you sleep, the fewer the connections between your nerve cells. Therefore, during tasks that need sharp memory aid, such as an exam, it is recommended that students opt for a good night’s sleep over an all-nighter.
You can’t concentrate
Lack of sleep impairs concentration and slows down your performance. Your body is tired and hence does not provide you with the mental capability to concentrate on the task at hand. Coffee seems to act as a quick fix in such situations as it acts as a stimulant but this temporary boost will wear off eventually.
You have dark circles
Lack of sleep slows down the circulation in your body which causes the blood to pool in under the eye area. This creates the appearance of dark circles under the eyes. If you notice this change, correct your sleeping habits instead of indulging in cosmetic treatments.
You’re always hungry
Studies show that lack of sleep can disrupt the blood sugar levels in the body. This causes the body to produce less leptin (a hormone that curbs appetite), and more ghrelin (a hormone that tells you when to eat). These changes may cause you to overeat and binge on unhealthy comfort foods.
You sleep all throughout the weekend
If you notice that you sleep way past noon on weekends, this is a sign that your body is trying to make up for the lack of sleep during the week. Manage your time better and get a good amount of sleep during the week so that you won’t have to waste your weekends making up for it.
Lighting: This is a very important factor when it comes to falling asleep. Some ways that you can have lighting that is less distractive and more soothing are:
Darken your bedroom - Which means shut off your flickering dvd player, use a towel to block the light from under your door, pick thicker curtains, whatever it takes. If you are a light sleeper, any form of light when you are trying to fall asleep can distract you.
Read a book – Lights from a laptop or tv before sleeping affect sleep. Reading is a cognitive process, which engages the brain and is also very relaxing unlike tv which is passive and does not tire your brain out.
Yellow light has been proven to be much more conducive for sleeping well, so dim yellow lighting for at least an hour before sleeping over any flickering blue light is a very good idea.
De-stress: Stress is one of the main reasons that make the limited time that we have for sleeping less productive. So before attempting to sleep, at least an hour should be spent on something more soothing like reading, talking to your spouse or close friend, taking a long bath or anything that takes your mind away from what’s bothering you. There maybe days, which cannot be planned to the ‘T’ but on most days its not that hard.
Try meditation: This really works. People who meditate do it in the morning, but meditating for half an hour before bed is a good idea because sometimes you drift into a half dreaming-half awake state and it is a relaxing, fun way to fall asleep.
Get a pre-sleep routine going: We are creatures of habit. Just like your body has an internal clock that knows when it’s time to wake up, if you have a routine everyday before sleeping, before long your body will know when it’s time to ready itself for sleep. Your routine can be anything from dimming the lights, drinking some herbal tea, listening to some light music and reading a book, taking a long shower or a combination of the above.
Food and sleep: Don’t eat immediately before bed. Sleeping right after a meal is not a good idea as in that time our body is focusing on digesting the food just eaten. These are two contradictory signals from the brain and can lead to a lot of time spent lying awake in bed. It is very important to take steps to ensure that you eat dinner three or four hours before bed.
A healthy diet: Melatonin is the primary sleep hormone that our bodies produce. But due to modern lifestyles Melatonin is mostly absent from our daily diets. Magnesium and/or zinc are very important for improving sleep. Foods like leafy greens (spinach) or nuts like almonds for magnesium and meat/ shellfish for zinc are rich in these minerals, and are the best ways to obtain them naturally.