World Sleep Day

I have written about the importance of sleep and how the lack of sleep impacts our physical and mental health. Sleep allows the mind and body to recharge, allows the body to repair itself and having a healthy sleep schedule means the body is fit and free from disease. . Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly and getting adequate rest may help prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and increased illness duration which can impair the ability to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories. A basic human need, much like eating and drinking, sleep is crucial to our overall health and well-being with research showing we spend up to a third of our lives sleeping. Sleep, like exercise and nutrition, is essential for metabolic regulation in children and there is evidence for a link between sleep duration and childhood obesity with the findings more apparent in girls than boys.

But this is not the case these days. Electronics, social media and other distractions make sure that we do not get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep that healthy adults need. It is estimated that sleep deprivation costs the US over $400 billion a year with Japan losing $138 billion, Germany $60 billion, the UK $50 billion, and Canada $21 billion. According to some evidence, the proportion of people sleeping less than the recommended hours of sleep is rising and associated with lifestyle factors related to a modern 24/7 society, such as psychosocial stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity and excessive electronic media use, among others.

This is alarming as insufficient sleep is associated with a range of negative health and social outcomes, including success at school and in the labour market. Over the last few decades, for example, there has been growing evidence suggesting a strong association between short sleep duration and elevated mortality risks. Insufficient sleep duration has been linked with seven of the fifteen leading causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular disease, malignant neoplasm, cerebrovascular disease, accidents, diabetes, septicaemia and hypertension and besides impairing health and wellbeing, existing evidence suggests that sleep plays an important part in determining cognitive performance and workplace productivity, with a lack of sleep leading to more traffic accidents, industrial accidents, medical errors and loss of work productivity. Sleep loss and sleep-related disorders have been linked to many accidents and catastrophes including the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the Three Mile Island nuclear incident, the Exxon Valdez spill and the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy

And to put a spotlight on the importance of sleep, every year an annual event, the World Sleep Day is organised by the World Sleep Day Committee of the World Sleep Society which aims to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders. The World Sleep Day is an annual event, intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, social aspects and driving.

Held annually since 2008, World Sleep Day is held on the Friday before the Spring Vernal Equinox of each year. This year the Spring Vernal Equinox falls on Sunday 20 March and so today is celebrated as World Sleep Day with more than 88 countries around the world participating.

Every year, World Sleep Day has a different theme with the theme for 2022 being “Quality Sleep, Sound Mind, Happy World”. The theme highlights the various components which make up quality sleep as opposed to just sleeping, how sleep affects mental health, mood, and decision-making and sleep in the context of global health.

Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep is known to have a significant negative impact on our health in the long and short term. Next day effects of poor quality sleep include a negative impact on our attention span, memory recall and learning. Longer-term effects are being studied, but poor quality sleep or sleep deprivation has been associated with significant health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, weakened immune systems and even some cancers. The lack of sleep is related to many psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety and psychosis and so quality sleep is crucial to ensure good health and quality of life.

For more information about sleep and resources that one can use, go to Become aware of the importance of sleep and take charge of your own and your family’s sleeping habits. It’s not easy giving up habits like using the phone before bedtime, but with time, you should be able to get a good night’s sleep!

The Importance of Sleep

Where sleep is concerned, our household is divided cleanly down the middle. GG and I prefer a decent bedtime while BB and S can go on for a long time. While GG and I can stay up late, our energies are noticeably depleted and we prefer to sleep early so we are awake early. On the other hand, BB and S can go on past midnight working, playing games or watching television with no difference to their energy and wake up the next day, not as early, but not very late too. BB especially has the best of both worlds according to GG. He can sleep late like S and wake up early, bright as a button the moment he opens his eyes like me.

The past few months, BB and I have been having this ongoing discussion on why he should sleep early, especially if it’s a weekday and so I thought I should share my findings with you. Read on to find out why sleep is so important and that by burning the midnight oil, how we set ourselves up for failure.

A vital, often neglected, component of every person’s overall health and well-being, Sleep is an essential function that allows the body and mind to recharge, leaving one refreshed and alert when they wake up. Sleep is important because it enables the body to repair and be fit and ready for another day. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly and getting adequate rest may help prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and increased illness duration which can impair the ability to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.

An internal body clock regulates one’s sleep cycle, controlling when they feel tired and ready for bed or refreshed and alert. This clock operates on a 24-hour cycle known as the circadian rhythm. After waking up from sleep, one will become increasingly tired throughout the day with the feelings peaking in the evening leading up to bedtime. This sleep drive, also known as sleep-wake homeostasis, may be linked to adenosine, an organic compound produced in the brain. Adenosine levels increase throughout the day as one becomes more tired, and then the body breaks down this compound during sleep.

Light also influences the circadian rhythm. The brain contains a special region of nerve cells known as the hypothalamus, and a cluster of cells in the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which processes signals when the eyes are exposed to natural or artificial light. These signals help the brain determine whether it is day or night. As natural light disappears in the evening, the body will release melatonin, a hormone that induces drowsiness. When the sun rises in the morning, the body will release the hormone known as cortisol that promotes energy and alertness.

Once a person falls asleep, the bodies follow a sleep cycle divided into four stages. The first three stages are known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and the final stage is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The first stage marks the transition between wakefulness and sleep and consists of light sleep. Muscles relax and the heart rate, breathing, and eye movements begin to slow down, as do brain waves, which are more active when one is awake. Stage 1 typically lasts several minutes. The second NREM sleep stage is characterised by deeper sleep as the heart rate and breathing rates continue slowing down and the muscles become more relaxed. Eye movements will cease and the body temperature will decrease. Apart from some brief moments of higher frequency electrical activity, brain waves also remain slow. Stage 2 is typically the longest of the four sleep stages. The third stage of NREM plays an important role in making one feel refreshed and alert the next day. Heartbeat, breathing, and brain wave activity all reach their lowest levels, and the muscles are as relaxed as they will be. This stage will be longer at first and decrease in duration throughout the night. The first REM stage will occur about 90 minutes after one falls asleep. As the name suggests, the eyes will move back and forth rather quickly under the eyelids. Breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure will begin to increase. Dreaming will typically occur during REM sleep, and the arms and legs will become paralysed, it’s believed this is intended to prevent one from physically acting out on their dreams. The duration of each REM sleep cycle increases as the night progresses with numerous studies that have also linked REM sleep to memory consolidation, the process of converting recently learned experiences into long-term memories. The duration of the REM stage will decrease as one ages, causing one to spend more time in the NREM stages.

These four stages will repeat cyclically throughout the night until one wakes up. For most people, the duration of each cycle will last between 90 to 120 minutes and NREM sleep constitutes about 75% to 80% of each cycle. One may also wake up briefly during the night but not remember the next day and these episodes are known as W stages.

For most adults, at least seven hours of sleep each night is needed for proper cognitive and behavioural functions with children and teenagers needing substantially more sleep, particularly if they are younger than five years of age. An insufficient amount of sleep can lead to serious repercussions. Some studies have shown sleep deprivation leaves people vulnerable to attention lapses, reduced cognition, delayed reactions, and mood shifts. It has also been suggested that people can develop a sort of tolerance to chronic sleep deprivation. Even though their brains and bodies struggle due to lack of sleep, they may not be aware of their deficiencies because less sleep feels normal to them. Additionally, lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk for certain diseases and medical conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, poor mental health, and early death.

Sleep needs vary from person to person, depending on their age. As a person ages, they typically require less sleep to function properly. According to the CDC, newborns until three months of age need 14 to 17 hours of sleep, infants between 2 to 12 months need 12 to 16 hours and toddlers from one to two need 11 to 14 hours of sleep. Preschool children between 3 to 5 need 10 to 13 hours while children between 6 to 12 years old need around 9 to 12 hours of sleep a day. Teens between 13 and 18 need to clock in 8 to 10 hours of rest while adults until the age of 60 need to maintain an average of 7 hours of sleep daily. As one grows older, sleep schedules change with adults between 61 and 64 needing 7 to 9 hours and those older than 65 need between 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily.

Work schedules, day-to-day stressors, a disruptive bedroom environment, and medical conditions can all prevent one from receiving enough sleep. A healthy diet and positive lifestyle habits can help ensure an adequate amount of sleep each night, but for some, chronic lack of sleep may be the first sign of a sleep disorder.

As well as the number of hours, the quality of sleep is also important. Signs of poor sleep quality include waking in the middle of the night and not feeling rested after an adequate number of hours of sleep. Some things a person should and should not do to improve sleep quality include the following:

  • Sleep for at least seven hours every day
  • Have a short nap for an energy booster if you need it during the day as a short nap of 10 to 20 minutes can help recharge energy levels and boost daytime productivity.
  • Exercise regularly as physical activity can help sleep better.
  • Relax muscles and release the tension in the body to help sleep better with some simple muscle relaxation exercises.
  • Establish a realistic bedtime and stick to it every night, even on the weekends.
  • Follow a bedtime routine. Grab a book, take a warm bath, or listen to some soothing music. A consistent routine can signal to the body to sleep at the same time daily.
  • Maintain comfortable temperature settings and low light levels in the bedroom.
  • Turn on the phone’s blue light filter. The night mode function filters out blue light, which inhibits the brain from producing sleep-inducing hormones.
  • Exercise during the day; this can help one wind down in the evening and prepare for sleep.
  • Keep the sleep environment comfortable by dimming or switching off the lights in the room or using blackout curtains or eye masks to help block out external light.
  • Refrain from using tobacco at any time of day or night.
  • Avoid sleeping in when one has had enough sleep.
  • Avoid Starving or eating a heavy meal before bedtime. It’s hard to sleep when one’s stomach is rumbling or after a large meal which may cause discomfort. Eat a couple of hours before sleep, or have a glass of milk before heading to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine or alcohol at night. Coffee is a stimulant that promotes wakefulness while alcohol may cause drowsiness and impact the quality of sleep.
  • Avoid Using electronics 30 minutes before bedtime as using such devices before bedtime stimulates the mind, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

If one thinks sleep is just a period of inactivity, then think again. The nightly shut-eye allows the brains to consolidate our learning and memory so we can perform tasks better the next day. When one has enough sleep, they are less likely to overeat and crave junk, and make wiser food choices. Sleep deprivation makes one unable to concentrate, have slow responses, make decisions impulsively and even felt easily annoyed. So tonight, make sure you sleep at least seven hours (more if you are older or younger) because the quantity and quality of sleep determine whether you wake up feeling energised or like a walking zombie.

In My Hands Today…

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams – Matthew Walker

The first sleep book by a leading scientific expert—Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab—reveals his groundbreaking exploration of sleep, explaining how we can harness its transformative power to change our lives for the better.

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive.

An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and accessible, Why We Sleep is a crucial and illuminating book.



Bedtime, for BB and GG at 12 and a half years on school nights is between 9 and 9:30 pm. Last week, one night when i was hounding them to bed, both said that they sleep the earliest among their friends and classmates. Most people their age, according to them, slept around 10 pm on school nights and even midnight and beyond on weekends and holidays.

I’ve always believed that in order to function at 100% capacity the next day, an adult has to have a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep the previous night and this increases for children (including teens). So I set out to show GG & BB why I ask them to sleep early, especially on school nights and this post is all the research I did and my findings….

Stress Worry Woman with Text on White

Sleep plays probably one of the most important roles in allowing us to function as normal, functioning human beings! Not getting enough sleep can impair mental and physical health as well as the quality of life. Worse, it makes you make wrong judgments in life (both mentally as well as physically) which leads to safety issues, for you as well as the people around you. We’ve all read, heard or seen many accidents which take place because people didn’t have enough sleep or how someone was diagnosed with a chronic disease where the real underlying cause was inadequate sleep!

For children, growing and otherwise, sleep is incredibly important as that is the time, when their brain cells work overtime to help them grow, both physically as well as mentally. Scientists believe that too little or not enough sleep in children can affect growth as well as their immune system. This is true for both young children as well as teens.

the-importance-of-sleep-before-your-exams_537341377350b_w450_h600It has also been researched that loss of sleep or not having enough sleep can cause students not to do well academically. This is true, not only the night before a big exam, but also on a day-to-day basis when a student has to be alert and perform in class. I read that research has proved that after two weeks of sleeping six hours or less a night, students feel as bad and perform as poorly as someone who has gone without sleep for 48 hours. Sleep is also very important for learning and memory and motor tasks as research has proved that students who slept better did better in these tasks than those who did not get the required amounts of sleep.

However, it’s not the quantity of sleep, but also the quality of sleep that is important. So even if a student has his full complement of sleep, but this is fractured, disturbed or otherwise not in full REM mode, he will not be fully alert the next day.

One report I read for this post says that studies have shown that factors such as self-reported shortened sleep time, erratic sleep/wake schedules, late bed and rise times, and poor sleep quality have been found to be negatively associated with school performance for adolescents from middle school through college. Thus, there is ample evidence to indicate that the lack of adequate nighttime sleep can lead to disturbances in brain function, which in turn, can lead to poor academic performance.

So given how important sleep is for everyone, especially students, what do we do to get a good night’s sleep?


Go to bed early and at a consistent time: Students need around 9-10 hours of sleep daily, but given the constraints on their time, I seriously don’t think they get enough, but even if we put an adult’s requirements on them, they need at least eight hours of sleep. So try to work backwards from your wake-up time and go to bed 8-9 hours before that. If you need time to fall asleep, take that time also into account.

Use the bed only for sleeping: Don’t read, study, watch TV or study on your bed. Your mind needs to associate the bed with sleep only and so by avoiding all other activities on the bed, it becomes easier for the mind to wind down and start sleeping once you actually get into bed.

Limit naps: Naps during the day, and especially closer to bedtime will play havoc with your sleep and circadian rhythms. If you must nap, don’t sleep for more an hour and try to wake up at least 6-7 hours before your bed-time.

Sleep-ins during the weekend: Don’t try to catch up on sleep during weekends. Try to stick to the same schedule as during the week as this may throw your schedule out of sync otherwise and Monday morning will be pain to wake up.

Caffeine: Avoid caffeine in any form after 3 pm. Caffeine stays for a long time in your system and make it hard to fall asleep. Although small portions of the population have no ill effects to caffeine, and if you are one of them, you should be ok!

Lights in the bedroom: Try and adjust the lights in your bedroom so that when you are ready to sleep, you are not blasted by bright lights which can try your mind.

Consistent meal schedule: Try to maintain a consistent eating schedule. Research says to have your last meal of the day two to three hours before bedtime so that your body has time to digest the food before sleep. This way your body is able to let you relax and sleep better.

Exercises: Exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes a day in the mornings allow you to become energized for the day and gives you deep and uninterrupted sleep at night. But remember not to exercise within three hours of bedtime as then exercise will stimulate your body, making it harder to fall asleep.

Stress and Anxiety: These are part and parcel in a student’s life and I assume a large proportion of students lose sleep because of stress and anxiety – about exams, a paper etc. Drink a glass of hot milk before bed as milk helps in managing stress. Also writing down what stresses you can make it go away from your head, at-least for the moment and lets you get good sleep.

Electronics Ban: Take some time to “wind down” before going to bed. Get away from all electronics (computer, television, mobile devices etc) 30 minutes before bedtime and let your body and mind relax with a good book. It’s very hard to do this and all of us are guilty of this almost all the time, but research has shown that being exposed to the blue light given out by electronic devices at night prevents our brain from releasing melatonin, which a hormone which regulates sleep. So the longer we are on electronic devices close to bedtime, the longer it will take us to actually sleep and this will affect both sleep quality and quantity, leading to all the issues at the beginning of this article.

I hope this post has been useful, especially if you need help in convincing your child that sleep is essential for him/her. I also spoke to GG after I finished my research for this post and asked her again about her friends. She replied they slept much less than her, but when asked if they were mentally present in class, as opposed to being just physically present, she replied in the negative and said most of them were zoned out or sleeping in class most times. This, more than anything else I said or could say in my defense of sleep seemed to have made a difference in how she viewed her sleep time!

Much Ado About Sleeping 

I’ve been experiencing something quite strange over the past few months. When I am tired, but can’t sleep, even with the air conditioning switched on, I feel hot. This does not happen when I am tired and sleepy though! Then I feel nice and cold and when I pull up a blanket, it’s nice, warm and toasty – just the right temperature to sleep in! 

I tried googling this, but can’t get any site which addresses this problem. Any thoughts?

I’ve always been a bad sleeper – I can take upto 30 minutes from the time I switch off the lights to actually getting some zzz. It doesn’t help that I can’t sleep without some reading done – physical or ebook. So all this can easily add a couple of hours from the time I get into bed to the time I actually sleep. I’ve pretty much tried everything, meditation, counting sheep, trying to get into the zone etc., but the only thing for me to really fall asleep is to get super tired! Some days even that doesn’t work and inspite of being tired, I am wide awake…

Scientists say that an adult requires between 7.5 to 9 hours a day. I fall somewhere in the middle – my ideal is 8 hours, but I can function well on 7.5 hours. However, I rarely sleep that much every night, except maybe over the weekend! I use a sleep tracking app (actually two, since I am OCD like that 😝) on my phone and have realised that I actually need slightly more 50% of my total sleep in deep plus REM sleep.

Sleep deprivation occurs when there is not enough of deep sleep. This is the time the body repairs itself and builds up energy for the day ahead. It plays a major role in maintaining your health, stimulating growth and development, repairing muscles and tissues, and boosting your immune system. In order to wake up energized and refreshed, getting quality deep sleep is essential.

For those who don’t know, REM or Rapid Eye Movement Sleep is one of the five stages of sleep that most people experience nightly. It is characterized by quick, random movements of the eyes and paralysis of the muscles. This stage of sleep is also sometimes known as paradoxical sleep and this is when most people are able to have especially vivid dreams. Every night we sleep, we move between wakefulness, REM and non REM sleep. Each cycle typically lasts about 90 minutes each and repeats as much as four to six times each night.

During REM sleep, your brain consolidates and processes the information you’ve learned during the day, forms neural connections that strengthen memory, and replenishes its supply of neurotransmitters, including feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that boost your mood during the day. Sleeping an extra 30 minutes to an hour in the morning, when REM sleep stages are longer will get you more mind and mood-boosting REM sleep, try sleeping an. Improving your overall sleep will also increase your REM sleep. If you aren’t getting enough deep sleep, your body will try to make that up first, at the expense of REM sleep.

Most adults, atleast those that I know of often have huge sleep debts and we think by sleeping in over the weekends (waking up late, taking naps during the day) will allow us to pay a part of that debt. However, it’s not that easy. This will help only temporarily and you may feel great on Monday after a weekend spent sleeping away, but as the day goes on, you’ll only feel more tired. Ways to get off a sleep debt include trying to sleep atleast 7.5 hours each night, sleeping an extra hour each morning and paying off the debt over a period of time, keeping a sleep diary to record sleep and drastically taking a sleep vacation to pay off a long-term debt. Lastly, schedule sleep in your calendar and banish anything from your bedroom which hinders sleep (Easier said than done, I know! Been there, done that 😳)

There are tons of resources available online for sleep. Googling “sleep” gave me 798,000,000 results and googling “how to sleep better” gave me 632,000,000 results!

If you also are sleep deprived like me, go ahead and look these up, but remember, don’t do this before you are about to sleep. You’ll be up all night otherwise!

Happy zzzz