and also increase your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Here’s how to improve your sleep cycle.One of the most important needs of the hu-man body is sleep. When your sleep is of poor quality and lasts only a short duration, then risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, obesity and even cancer, increase. Sleep is essential not just for your body but for your mind as well. Our bodies repair dur-ing sleep and it is imperative that we get an optimum and un-interrupted shut-eye. The more regular is the sleeping and waking schedule, the better.Do seven hours at least: The number of hours you put into sleeping is extremely important. Dr Preeti Devnani, from the department of neurology and sleep medicine, in a hospital, says that a minimum of seven-eight hours of sleep is essential. A sleep schedule is also of utmost importance and one should always follow a particular time slot — 10 pm to 7 am.You cannot compensate for lack of sleep: If you thought that during weekdays you could get away with four-five hours of shut-eye, and then catch up during the weekends with a longer sleep schedule, then you are wrong. Dr Devnani states that the damage done by lack of sleep cannot be reversed or compen-sated for. And afternoon naps, which should never be more than half-an-hour, are also not helpful, and cannot make up for a night of missed sleep.Mind your mind: When you go off to bed it is important to keep your mind free of clutter. Wait for the morning to resolve all your is-sues. Clinical psychologist Varkha Chulani says, “Studies have shown that the less you sleep the more prone you are to emotional distress. One of the causes of cancer is lack of sleep. Mind-less-ness aids in good sleep — where you switch off the mind from needless thoughts and instead allow only calming pic-tures, music, etc to alter the mood.”Get ready to sleep: One ought to wind down an hour or so before hitting the bed. The less stimulus impingement, the better the mind goes to rest and then eventually catches shut-eye, explains Varkha.Your bedroom should be a gadget-free zone: In the days of constant connectivity, smart phones, tablets, laptops have become more a bane than a boon. Neuropsychiatrist Dr Rajesh Parikh says, “Too many people are hooked onto digital devices and onto the net itself. Many people cannot even conceive a life outside of a digital world. Having said that, let me declare my conflict of interest: I do not own a cell phone and for the past 20 years have been warning my friends of the health hazards of cell phone use.” Radiation from mobiles and gadgets can hamper sleep. Ideally, your bedroom should be a completely gadget-free, no-sound, no light zone. That will help you get undisturbed sleep and maintain your circadian rhythm. Varkha adds, “So switch off the TV, phone and wifi and go to sleep-land with a light read at your bedtime. Some soulful music, a clean and nicely dark room, etc all aid in sleeping well.”Keep away from Caffeine: Stay away from all kinds of addictive, alcoholic and caffeinated substances. They hamper your sleep cycle. If you have to indulge, make sure you do so at least three-four hours before your bedtime.Take a warm bath: Ritu Singh Tanwar, who specialises in relaxing massages, says that one should indulge in a ritual before bed-time — this also helps your body to under-stand that it is time to relax and unwind. “Take a warm bath, or soak your feet in warm water with relaxing oil drops and salts in it. Apply a soothing lotion and mas-sage it in. All this calms your senses and you sleep better,” she adds.Do some yoga, exercise: Jogging, brisk walking, yoga, free-hand exercises, dance, zumba or gymming are activities that you should take up during the day if you are someone who has a lot of trouble falling asleep.Wake up with the sun: Waking up early in the morning is a great way to begin your day. The early morning sun is good for you and helps you to get your dose of Vitamin D.
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