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.

Parenting: When teens push your buttons

By their very definition and age, teens tend to be self-centred and when they are in this phase, they tend to be rude and curt to people around them, including parents and this, in turn, makes people think, they are being disrespectful. But this a phase, which they outgrow once they become older and thus, more mature and learn to navigate the pitfalls of social conversations.

While I won’t say BB & GG are outright disrespectful, they do, at times, push as many buttons as they can, to see how much they can get away with. I looked and searched online for ideas I can implement at home to nip this in the bud and at the same time, teach them life skills.

We have to understand that this is happening to pretty much every child who enters the teenage years and so as parents and rational adults, we need to tackle this calmly without really reacting to their rude behaviour. They will try and push boundaries, it’s in their blood, but remember, we do not stoop to their level and react and act like them.

Focus on the behaviour and not on the person behaving and set clear rules on what constitutes good behaviour. Also, make sure your teen knows the consequences of bad behaviour and make sure you go through on those consequences when rules are broken.

Be a role model to your child, model the same behaviour you want to see in your child

Ignore mild forms of disrespect. It’s best to ignore mild forms of disrespect like rolling eyes, not replying to questions, shrugging shoulders etc. Ignoring such behaviour will let them know that you don’t give importance to such behaviour and hopefully, this kind of behaviour will peter off gradually.

Speak to them, often and even when they are uncommunicative. I always ask GG & BB how their day was and more often than not, the response I get is either, ‘the usual’ or ‘nothing much’. I don’t give up and sit and ask them in detail and with this try to open communication channels between us. It’s easier with GG (maybe because she is a girl) than BB, but I am not giving up and hope there will be a day when he is as much a chatty Kathy as GG is.

Hope these tips are useful for you when you are dealing with an uncommunicative and unresponsive teen. Do comment below on how you deal with your teen!

Teens and Smart Devices



Over the last week, I have been thinking very hard on this topic since it’s something that’s close to my heart these days. BB is always on a smart device, either his phone or laptop from the time he wakes up until he has to be pushed to keep them aside and go to bed. I have already tried some techniques, which I will elaborate below, but that was not enough, I needed some more ammunition to get him to concentrate on school work and not just play games on his devices. So here’s a summary of what I found.

BB and GG belong to a generation who are digital natives and they have not lived a life where they didn’t have access to the internet or didn’t have a life which was not online. So it does become slightly difficult to get them to draw a line between the real and virtual worlds. This is a generation, who after coming back from school, start speaking to their friends online, those friends whom they just saw as little as a few minutes back!


After reading up on what I, as a parent can do, I have come to the conclusion that unless the teen is very mature, there’s not much we can do. All we can do is keep reiterating and hope it ends someplace inside their head and they are able to understand what we are trying to say to them.


Some of the things I have already implemented include bedtimes not later than 10 pm for both of them, especially during a school night, the charging of their mobile phones outside their rooms (actually my room so I know they don’t use their phone later), no laptops or other electronic devices inside their room after bedtime and also have installed a smartphone locking app in their phones. I use OurPact, which, when I first downloaded it more than two years back, I could use on both phones from my phone. I understand that these days only one child phone can be monitored from a parent’s phone using the free version. The children are not allowed to remove OurPact from their phones and the penalty for doing so will mean that phone privileges are revoked.

What else can I do?

I am going to try to get them to keep their phones aside for a fixed amount of time, starting from 15 minutes initially and then going up. They are used to keeping their phones switched off in school, so I am hoping this should not be too difficult for them.

Another thing I am going to implement is making them keep their phones in a drawer when they are doing school work and studying. This may be slightly difficult to implement (because I have already tried this), but I am going to continue to keep trying. They have songs downloaded on their phones, but still, want to access YouTube to listen to music.

I am still looking for solutions which I can, as a parent implement to cut down on my children’s smart device usage. Do you have any innovative and out of the box ideas that I can use? Please do comment below so I can implement them!

What’s Happening to the World?

The past few days have been very disappointing and depressing for me as a woman, as a feminist, as a mother, as someone who is a minority in my country and most importantly as a human being.

Like many others across the world, I was following the US elections and was hoping and praying that the glass ceiling will finally be shattered in that country. But like many others, our hopes were instead shattered that day and millions of women, minorities, and others were left devastated and crying.

As a woman it makes me wonder why a country which has taken the lead on the world stage can’t come off the patriarchy it seems to be in and vote for the person most qualified for and most competent for the position? Instead, they (and by they, I am not only referring to the white male, but also to the 53% white female who voted for patriarchy) voted for someone who not only showed absolute disdain and contempt for women and minorities, but who also ran a campaign on a racist, sexist, misogynistic and xenophobic tone. How could this person be so much better than the woman who opposed him? I am not saying she was perfect, she did have her faults, but how was he better than her? I still can’t get my head around that one!

What’s more frightening to me as a mother of impressionable teens is that how they will now perceive the world around them. I’ve always been telling BB that she can be anything and anyone she wants to be, even the Prime Minister of her country, but suddenly now, I am not too sure. As a female of a minority race, does she even have the same chances and options as a male of the majority race? This election is making me rethink what to tell her now. Maybe our country will be enlightened enough a couple of decades later to elect a minority female prime minister, but do I have the conviction to tell her that now? Can I continue to tell her to work hard, do her best, be nice to people and she will get the results she is hoping for? Or is this all a big fat lie we parents tell our girls?

And then there’s BB. I have always believed that mothers of young boys have a greater job in ensuring that their young boys grow up to be men of integrity and character, that when they grow up, the teachings they learn from their parents and especially their mothers should be the foundation which they base their interactions with the women in their lives – be it wives, daughters, friends, colleagues and every woman they meet in their day-to-day lives. They should be polite men who believe internally that the women in their lives are equal in every respect to a man. But this election has blown that out of the water. That a man, who denigrated women at all times, who was caught doing this so many times, has become the most powerful man in today’s world is nothing but catastrophic for parents who want to teach their boys how not to behave as opposed to how to behave. Now when you teach boys good behavior, it’s going to come to pinch you in your back when they see the reality around them. What they see around them tells them that their parents are wrong. You do get rewarded for bad behavior and the reward is nothing else but becoming the most powerful man in the world! I have no words….

It’s going to take me some more time to get my head around the new reality of our world today and I think I need more time to process it further. I also need to think about how I am going to continue to teach my children how they need to navigate this new reality. This post is the reaction if my feelings from the past few days and is actually a very early morning (4:30 am to be precise) post where I had to write down my thoughts and feelings.

I’d love anyone who reads this to react and comment. Maybe I get a better understanding of the situation and also some tips on how to navigate it.

Happy Birthday to you….


Today is the day BB & GG leave their childhood behind and officially become teens! They turn 13 today….


Dear GG and BB,

Happy Birthday to you! You turn 13 today and can now call yourselves official teenagers. These teen years will be amazing years for both of you as you both learn to stretch your wings, form your lifelong beliefs, build abilities and passions and find what you want to do for the rest of your lives.

You both are growing up to become fine young people, who have a good value system which should allow you to take the vagueries of being an adult in your stride. This is an age where temptations abound all around you and I do hope that values and sense we have instilled in both of you will help you fight against those temptations you will see around you.

GG, you are my first born and when I was pregnant with the two of you, I desperately wanted at least one of you to be a girl. You are that girl. You show so much promise and over the last one year, you have literally grown up, becoming more mature and focused. You know what you want to do in school and are very clear about your goals. You may not have the perfect career idea as yet, but each day you are refining your ideas and when you do figure out exactly what you want to do in life, you are well poised to achieve those goals. You also have started blossoming in terms of leadership skills and these will stand you in good stead in life. Keep doing what you are doing with the same passion and you will always be a winner!

BB, when you were born, I was very happy. I had always longed for a brother, and when I saw you with your sister, I knew GG will never feel the same yearning. You’ve been an amazing brother and hope you and your sister be as close as you are now forever. You are such a smart boy that sometimes the things you say, scare me! You found your passion in life when you were 3 years old and over the years, this  has never wavered. This is extremely rare in people who take years in finding out what they want to do in life, with some adults not knowing it till the day they die. I hope you keep this passion alive and kicking and do all that you can to make sure you are able to achieve what you set out to be at age three! Do not less the fun of today make you lose track of what you want to achieve in life and lose sight of the end goal.

02186pcGG & BB, my wishes for you both are that you both lead happy, contented and fulfilled lives. There are not many years left when you will leave these teen years behind and become full-fledged adults and have all the responsibilities that come with it. Use these years wisely, read as much as you can, grow your mind, work hard in school to achieve the goals you set out for yourselves, enjoy life with family and friends and most importantly have loads of fun while doing all this.

I see you both and see myself and your daddy in both of you, but you are version 2.0 of us, better models, the versions I hope I would have been – more confident, focused and less OCD!

So Happy 13th Birthday GG & BB! I am so proud of you….Welcome to the best years of your life – your teens!