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Wed Mar 21 2018

Despite being one of the most crucial elements of well-being, sleep is also the most neglected one. Half the population get six hours of sleep or less, and for an alarming four out of five people, it is restless or inadequate.

Sleep is when the body repairs itself; it is a process of restoration of the entire body, including the central nervous system, as it releases growth hormones.

Harvard Health, 2017, posits; “Sleep-deprived people have higher blood levels of stress hormones and substances that indicate inflammation, a key player in cardiovascular disease. Even a single night of insufficient sleep can perturb your system.’ The dangers of insufficient sleep, resulting in cardiovascular risks including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery diseases, are recognized by the American Heart Foundation and the W.H.O. A W.H.O team researching cardiovascular diseases warns that poor sleep and sleep disorders, like smoking and lack of exercise, increases the risk of heart diseases in the form of heart attacks or strokes.

Our recent corporate programmes in India, where companies identified stress as an issue and invited us to deliver our ‘Stress Free’ programme, our health quotient analytics identified ‘sleep deprivation’ as a common theme. Prevalent among most participants were lack of sleep induced by usage of screens in bed, difference in global time zones of work and frequent sleep interruption. We offered some practical solutions and at the follow-up consultations, it was found out, the most effective one involved switching screens off at least an hour before bedtime. Some participants were professionally involved in media, and could not follow this suggestion. So, we considered apps like f.lux and ‘nightshift’ modes. Though not as efficient as switching off, they were still beneficial.

Some programme participants desired to address lack of sleep due to shift work. I raised this query at Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s recent interview of Dr Mathew Walker, when both agreed on the negative correlation between shift work and health. Dr Walker suggested as a possible solution the avoidance of frequently changing shifts within short intervals. Regularity, in this case, would be the key.

Sleep, and its effect on health, is a vast topic, and we shall possibly address it further. It seemed pertinent, however, to discuss this as it was World Sleep Day on 16th March. Stay tuned for more.

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