Follow good sleep hygiene

I am 19-year-old. I study in Class XII. It has been a few months that I have not been able to sleep well at night. The reason is not studying too much. I mostly watch videos at night to sleep. My nap lasts only five hours. Why can’t I sleep well? Can this problem hamper my brain?

— Rajiv KC, Imadol, Lalitpur

Certainly, for your age under normal circumstance five hours is inadequate sleep duration. You would need at least seven to eight hours of sleep for the brain to have adequate rest. There are several causes for inadequate sleep or insomnia as it is known in medical terms. One of the causes could be your habit of watching videos before sleep. This is because you maybe prolonging the time to sleep even when you have the urge to complete the movie or certain sequence of whatever you are watching. One can have difficulty in sleep or intermittent wakefulness during the night, early morning awakening or combination of these. Of course, there are other relevant factors like stress, coffee consumption, physical discomfort, daytime napping (remember napping means short sleep burst not lasting more than 30 minutes), and early bedtime.

There are two ways to treat insomnias —psychological and pharmacological. In your case, psychological strategy would be the appropriate choice.

This would mean to follow good sleep hygiene:

1.    Go to bed only when sleepy. In your case as soon as you are sleepy and not keep watching videos till your programme ends. Make a specific time period till what time your going to watch.

2.    Use the bed only for sleeping.

3.    If you are still awake after 20 minutes, leave the bed and return when sleepy.

4.    Try waking up at the same time every morning.

5.    Avoid drinking coffee.

6.    Maintain a routine exercise regimen.

7.    Limit fluid intake in the evening.

If above advice still do not help out try relaxation techniques, yoga or meditation. Try to establish a bedtime ritual and a routine time for going to sleep.

You also mentioned about whether lack of sleep hampers your brain. Well, if you don’t sleep well, it’s surely going to lead to health issues, both mental and physical. In fact, sleep is every bit as important for optimal health as healthy food, pure water, and exercise. On mental aspect, creativity and rapidity of response to unfamiliar situations are impaired.

Lastly, in your case, avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. You could try substituting with text book reading that can really put you to sleep-well, at least it worked for me during my college days!