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In the third and final part of the three-part article on sleep, our fashionista, Shameena, tells us why sleep is important. Read more in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
The way you feel when you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.
The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.
No matter how little sleep you get one night, chances are you still have to go to work the next day and do your job successfully enough to keep your boss, clients, and colleagues happy. And the more sleep debt you rack up from a chronic sleep condition, the harder it is to function normally during the day. Poor sleep affects work performance, there’s no question. Try these tips for staying awake during the day while searching for better sleep at night.
Drink Lots of Water
Not only will it quench your thirst, it’ll keep you active, running back and forth to the bathroom.
Seek Out the Sun
If you have irregular sleep patterns, direct sun exposure in the morning can help reset your internal clock. It can also give you a boost when you’re fading during the day. A 2006 Belgian study found that light affects areas of the brain also involved in attention, arousal, and emotion regulation during the day, and that sunlight curbs afternoon drowsiness.
If sitting near a window isn’t an option for you, try to get outside during lunch or coffee breaks. And if possible, ask if you can get high-intensity light bulbs instead of standard ones in your office.
Get up and Move
Find the nearest stairwell at work and use it. Get your soda from the cafeteria, instead of the vending machine on your floor. Instead of riding the elevator to the mailroom, take the stairs. Even if you have nowhere to go, walk up and down a couple flights when you feel yourself flagging.
Negotiate a Flexible Schedule
Workers who felt their jobs had adequate flexibility to meet personal and family commitments also reported getting more sleep. These people may not be working as late or are perhaps less stressed and sleeping better at night. Talk with your employer about the possibility of setting some of your own hours, or about whether you might be eligible for special arrangements.
Jetlag and Sleep
Every day, millions of travellers struggle against one of the most common sleep disorders — jetlag. For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind. Now, studies have shown that the condition actually results from an imbalance in our body’s natural “biological clock” caused by traveling to different time zones. Basically, our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called “circadian rhythms.” These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.
When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep when it’s actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet lag.
The effects of shift work or jet lag on the body clock can be reduced simply by changing the times at which people eat. Changing meal times as well as sunlight exposure may help your master and peripheral clocks shift at the same speed. This can reduce desynchronisation of the body clock and, therefore, reduce health problems.
Foods to Avoid
Caffeine: It is a stimulant that works by blocking the action of hormones (that make us feel tired) in the brain. A strong dose of caffeine can stimulate the mind for a short period but can cause an alertness crash as the effect wears off. The best way it benefits from stimulating effect of caffeine is to consume small amounts, frequently, throughout the day. Don’t drink more than three cups and limit your quantity six hours before your new location bedtime.
Alcohol: A glass of wine might sound like it’ll help you relax and fall asleep, but studies have found that alcohol causes frequent waking at night. Alcohol reduces REM sleep (the deep dream state). Without alcohol, you will sleep deeper and more at rest. So stick to just one glass, no more than one to two hours before bed, to avoid a rocky night.
Salmon: A concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acid, it does wonders to help rebuild brain cells and slow down cognitive decline. But a late-night meal with salmon should be avoided. Instead, eat your fish for breakfast or lunch to help you pull through the day
Green Tea: Green tea contains caffeine but in more modest amounts, which is balanced by the amino acids called thiamine. Thiamine skyrockets your mental alertness and focus. So avoid it before bedtime.
Foods to Have
Chamomile Tea: Research shows that this tea induces deep sleep. It may not help you sleep quicker but helps you sleep soundly, which allows you to build up your energy and feel- good factors within one or two days at your new location. It works best if consumed with warm water (no sugar or honey) two or three hours before bedtime.
Walnuts: Most of my frequent flier clients love their travel diet plans, which include a slice of banana walnut cake every day. Two whole kernels of walnut are known to make an adult snooze like a baby. Walnuts mimic melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness) naturally, inducing a sleeping pill effect. Consume walnuts regularly for two weeks to see the difference.
Yoghurt: Dairy products like yogurt and milk boast healthy doses of calcium – and research suggests they being calcium-deficient may make it more difficult to fall asleep. Also, calcium calms the muscles after a hectic day. Dairy products are best consumed during the day rather than closer to bedtime, to help induce sound sleep.
Whole grains: Bulgur, barley and other whole grains are rich in magnesium. Consuming too little magnesium may make it harder to sleep for long, reports the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.
A magnesium supplement will help you beat jet lag quicker. A dose of zinc (found in an oyster, flaxseed, kidney beans, watermelon seeds and spinach) will also boost your immune system to tackle erratic sleep timings.
Kale: Dairy Products are well-known calcium-rich foods. But green leafy vegetables such as kale and collards also boast healthy doses of calcium.
Bananas: Bananas, well known for being rich in potassium, are also a good source of vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin, says an article published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. The article also suggests having chickpeas (Chana) for the same reason.
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