12 ways to improve the quality of your sleep

How resting well can enhance the quality of life

By Mohita Shrivastava

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Published: Thu 16 Feb 2023, 9:12 PM

We are living in the era of competitiveness, insecurities and mostly leading a sedentary lifestyle, following the prevalence of a ‘hybrid work culture’ in the post-Covid-19 world. All these changes have jolted our mental and physical health and affected our normal sleep patterns. A ‘good night’s sleep’ is not only key to good health but also to material achievements that people are aiming at in this modern era. The most common sleep disorder we often encounter these days is ‘sleeplessness’, otherwise called ‘insomnia’, which makes it hard to fall or stay asleep, or compels one to wakes up too early while being unable to sleep again. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is highly recommended to have an average sleep of eight hours for an adult.

Insomnia is caused due to life stressors, viz concerns about school, work, family, finances or health; erratic work and travel schedule that disrupts one’s circadian rhythm; late evening eating habits or caffeine, nicotine; irregular bedtime, naps; electronic devices overuse; psychological disorders like anxiety and PTSD; medical conditions like chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, overactive thyroid etc; normal course of ageing; sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and chronic medications.

The aftermath of insomnia is mainly seen as decline in cognitive functions, like short-term memory, working memory, focus and concentration, processing speed, reaction time, comprehension, and attention, increased brain fog, affecting productivity and efficiency adversely at work. Besides an incessant tiredness throughout the day, dearth of energy to carry routine tasks nudges one’s overall work performance and quality of life.

How to improve quality of sleep

1) Cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is an effective structured programme for chronic insomnia and helps one to pick/switch/eliminate negative thoughts/behaviours/fear and worry that worsens sleep and helps overcome the underlying cause.

2) Maintaining a sleep journal, a timetable for bedtime and wake-up time, including weekends, and keep it constant.

3) Keeping both body (exercise/sports/yoga) and mind active (brain training/cognitive function exercises) helps promote a good night’s sleep.

4) Sleep restriction i.e. avoiding daytime naps unless unavoidable.

5) Avoid large meals and limit caffeine, nicotine before bedtime.

6) Arrange a cosy and comfy bed with pillow and mattress to make bedroom comfortable for sleep.

7) Include a relaxing bedtime ritual, like taking a warm bath, reading, or listening to soft music.

8) Melatonin supplements or other sleep-inducing prescribed drugs could help for a short period by providing relief during high stress or grief.

9) Improve sleep environment by keeping bedroom quiet, dark, cool, without TV, and hiding the clock from view.

10) Relaxation training like meditation, imagery, muscle relaxation etc help calm mind and body.

11) Paradoxical intention wanes out all efforts to fall asleep by keeping one’s mind in a constant worry mode to keep awake. Letting go of this worry helps us fall asleep easily.

12) Monitoring sleep patterns via neurofeedback can help identify patterns that affect sleep and modify them accordingly in real time.

It is worth mentioning that good sleeping habits not only avert insomnia but also help clear brain fog, improve cognitive skills, like memory, focus, attention, alleviate fatigue and tiredness. All this improves efficiency and increases productivity at work, building up a good frame of mind and promoting overall wellbeing.


Dr Mohita Shrivastava is a neuroscientist and neuropsychologist

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