Every Question You Had About Sleep And Related Disorders—Answered (Part 3)

Every Question You Had About Sleep And Related Disorders—Answered (Part 3)

Pooja Maheshwary
Young woman sleeping with an eye mask. By George Rudy | www.shutterstock.com
Young woman sleeping with an eye mask. By George Rudy | www.shutterstock.com

There’s no contesting the connection between sound sleep and our health. We often have conversations related to the quality of our sleep and its effects within the Malini’s Girl Tribe. So, we invited Dr. Lancelot Pinto, Consultant Pulmonologist at PD Hinduja Hospital, to host an Ask Me Anything session on sleep and sleep-related disorders.

Dr. Pinto answered questions like how to deal with insomnia, excessive daytime somnolence (sleeping in the day), morning headaches, irritability through the day, recent weight gain, uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, recurrent strokes, inability to concentrate, and more. Scroll down to read how you can create healthy sleep hygiene and sleep soundly.

Q. No matter how hard I try (turning off screens two hours before, keeping my room dark, trying to keep a clear mind), I just can’t fall asleep before 3.30 am! Please suggest ways on how to sleep earlier.

If you have done this all your life, it is a pattern that is going to be challenging to break, as your circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock) has been reset. A drug like melatonin might help, as might bright light therapy to reset the clock. Try and avoid afternoon naps. Exercise in the morning time can help, as fatigue would help with feeling sleepy.

Q. What should I do when I wake up at 3 or 4 am and can’t go back to sleep?

I think the most important thing is to not stay awake in bed staring at the ceiling, “trying” to sleep, as this can be anxiety-provoking. Get out of bed, go to another room, listen to light music or read a book (not on a backlit device), DO NOT get on to your phone, and wait to feel sleepy again. If this is a recurring problem though, one might need to rule out diseases such as sleep apnea as a cause for the awakenings.

Q. I feel anxious every night before I try to fall asleep. What can I do about it?

The fear of not being able to sleep can often lead to a vicious cycle of anxiety…difficulty falling asleep…more anxiety. Try to avoid backlit devices (read a regular book with a reading light), do not spend time in bed staring at the ceiling (if you are not able to fall asleep, get out of your bedroom, read a book or sit for some time in a dimly lit space till you feel sleepy and then return to the bedroom). A glass of milk, a warm shower are also known to help. Avoid caffeinated beverages or intense exercise in the evenings as they can raise the heart rate and worsen such anxiety.

Q. How many hours of sleep should I be getting every night?

Most individuals need a minimum of eight hours of sleep every night. Some need more, others less, but one should try to get a bare minimum of eight hours of sleep. Children need more sleep, and this ranges from 14-17 hours in newborns to progressively fewer hours as they grow.

Q. Is insomnia curable? Do home remedies work? Can anyone live a regular life with an average of two hours of sleep per day?

It’s important to remember that insomnia is more often a symptom of depression or anxiety, or a consequence of lifestyle choices (televisions in bedrooms, bright backlit devices, excess caffeine, working 24/7 on laptops). Treating it with sedatives or sleeping pills is a knee-jerk reaction that should be a last resort after all the potential causes have been ruled out. Warm showers before bed and warm milk have been shown to help, as is the use of loose clothes, a good ambient temperature in the room, blackout curtains, etc. It is unlikely that one can have a regular life with two hours of sleep a day.

What’s your biggest concern when it comes to sleep? Please share it with us in the comments below.

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