World Sleep Day: Expert reveals benefits of mindful sleeping and how to achieve it

There are three elements important for healthy sleep — duration, continuity, and depth. 
World Sleep Day is observed on March 17 every year
World Sleep Day is observed on March 17 every year

Every year, World Sleep Day is celebrated on the 17th of March. While sleep is essential for a person's health, millions of people, in India alone, do not get enough sleep. The reasons can vary from stress to social life. The ZzzQuil India National Sleep Survey by Kantar in association with P&G reveals that only 15 percent of Indians on average get good sleep at night, with almost 60 percent of Indians facing occasional sleeplessness.

We talk to Dr Yong Chiat Wong, Group Head Scientist, Medical & Technical Affairs at P&G Health to talk about the effects of lack of sleep, its co-relation with immunity and new trends.

What is the importance of sleep? 

Sleep has three major functions. The first is consolidation. During sleep, the brain puts a lot of effort into learning, developing, and transferring short-term memory into long-term memory. Secondly, it's also important for growth and repair like the release of growth hormones, that's why, you know, a baby sleeps a lot. The third important factor for sleep is that it helps us to rejuvenate and relax. 

How does lack of sleep affect humans, physically and mentally?

If you lack sleep or have short-term sleep, you can get irritable easily and have a short attention span for decision-making. There's a study that says that people who have less than seven hours of sleep versus those who sleep more than eight hours have a three times higher risk of catching a cold. In long term, lack of sleep is also associated with an increased risk of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular mortality as well as diabetes.  

What is more important, quantity sleep or quality sleep?

I would say that both aspects are important. There are three elements important for healthy sleep. The first is duration. The second is continuity. And the third is depth. 

How are sleep and immunity intertwined?

Sleep helps our body to balance and restore our immunity. The sleep cycle closely communicates with the immune system. At night, your immune system will release cytokines as you sleep, which are very vital, for fighting infections and have protective functions. So if you sleep less, there is less production of cytokines and you are more prone to contracting infections. 

What’s the minimum requirement of sleep hours age-wise? 

Sleep is one of the important factors for the release of growth hormones. So, newborns and infants typically sleep up to 17 hours per day. One-to-five-year-olds, stick to 14 hours of sleep, while six-year-olds to teenagers need about 10 hours of sleep. Young adults typically need seven to nine hours and older adults seven to eight hours of sleep. So I will say a minimum of seven hours of sleep is required.

What's the advice you would give to today's generation for maintaining their sleep balance? 

Over millions of years of evolution, the human body has been designed to rest and restore after sunset. However, according to modern societal norms, the lifestyle that we have, and the technologies that we use nowadays are acting against this natural process. At night, people switch on lights, TVs, devices, and on-demand entertainment and are always on social media. So all these, are acting against our natural sleep cycle.

What is important for us is the need to have a regular sleeping schedule. We should have a healthy lifestyle with physical activities and avoid using devices at night. We should sleep in dark and quiet rooms to get quality sleep.  

What's the concept of delayed sleep or revenge sleep? 

Many people procrastinate and sleep late. This is in response to the stress or the lack of personal free time during the day. So, they try to relax, binge-watch or use social media at night. However, these activities may further affect our sleep cycle. Studies show that with just two hours of screen time, our body can suppress up to 40 percent of melatonin secretion. 

Melatonin is a very important body substance that helps us to get sleep. So if melatonin production is suppressed at night, it will make it even harder to fall asleep. 

What are the sleep trends post-pandemic? 

There was a 2021 study by Felix. It states that two out of three participants reported the ability to sleep well during the pandemic and more than one-third reported difficulty in falling asleep. In 2020, 74 percent were reported using a cell phone in bed and then a year later in 2021, it increased to 84 percent. 

The most common reason for stress is poor sleep. So after the pandemic and work-from-home arrangements, people had to work overtime as well, which contributed to additional stress. 

Are there any tech or gadgets we can use for ensuring sleep

If I have to recommend it, I will maybe invest in something like sleep ambient light or soothing music.  

Related Stories

No stories found.