DURBAN – In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us may be experiencing a disturbed sleeping pattern. This could be one of the symptoms of the current calamity and uncertainty we all face.
According to studies, an irregular sleeping pattern could be dangerous.
A study by Annete Estes, director of the University of Washington Autism Centre has revealed that sleep complications in the first twelve months of a baby’s life could further lead to an autism diagnosis. Furthermore, it hinders the course of growth in a vital part of the brain called the Hippocampus.
Published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Estes said, “The hippocampus is critical for learning and memory, and changes in the size of the hippocampus have been associated with poor sleep in adults and older children. As many as 80 percent of the children with autism spectrum disorder have sleep problems.”
To derive these results, more than 400 samples were taken of children aged between six months and a year. The infants who were later detected to have autism have had issues in falling asleep.
The song about a good night’s sleep has been sung to us over and over since we were little. Unfortunately, we only realise after some time that this song was god sent.
A study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute shows that irregular sleeping patterns in adults can lead to a host of complications like High-blood press, obesity and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
As we have come to know, these complications play a major part in the COVID-19 mortality rates.
How does an irregular sleeping pattern affect your body?
In simple terms, your body has its own personal clock. This clock is called a circadian rhythm. This rhythm tells your body when to sleep and when to get up. There are many systems in the body which rely on this sleeping pattern. Which is why an irregular sleeping pattern could damage your health.
“Anything that affects the body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle, can contribute to inflammation. Abnormalities in sleep lead to more inflammation and construction of our arteries, which can upset the cholesterol plaque in our arteries and lead to a heart attack” said Dr. Guy L. Mintz, director of cardiovascular health and lipidology at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in New York.
This may sound cliche’ but routine, routine, routine. Creating a healthy sleeping cycle may be the saving grace you need to get through this pandemic sanely.
Ditch the Blue lights: According to Dr Michael J. Thorpy, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center, the light emitted from electronic devices and energy efficient bulbs (called blue light) affects your ‘master clock’. It is important to turn off all your devices at least 1 hour before you go to bed.
If you are an essential worker on night shift, you can buy glasses that block blue light during their daytime drive home to “trick” their brain into thinking it’s night time.
Skip the afternoon nap: As much as possible, avoid taking an afternoon nap. Now I know that sometimes we eat such a loaded lunch, that 20 minutes later we’re ready to head off into dreamland. But this could affect your ability to have a good night’s sleep.
According to Thorpy, “keep it to less than 20 minutes. It will refresh you but won’t take away from sleep later.”
Try waking up the same time everyday: “You can’t always control when you fall asleep, but you can decide when you start your day. Having a regular routine sets the tone for your body for the whole day,” he says.
EXERCISE: Now I really don’t need to get into this one with you. Exercise can benefit you in numerous ways, but with regards to sleep. It keeps your heart rate up during the day, which increases your odds of getting a good night’s sleep. Yoga before bed can also relax the muscles and mind to ease you into those sweet dreams.
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