Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tips on Sleeping Better

Mostly I have a restful night, but very very rarely, not so much. Over the years, I have formed certain conclusions about what leads to a good night's sleep (and a good morning), and what doesn't. Maybe some can be useful for anybody, while some other suggestions may be only for a few.

Here are some tips and biases and experiential "nuggets" from one who considers sleeping one of life's essential pleasures, and who thinks that a day is to a large measure as good as the night prior:
  • Sleep alone. You may be married, or in a relationship and I don't wish you to be celibate. But consider this carefully. Some people (especially women) may be fond of a "stuffed animal" or a "hugging pillow" while they sleep, but sleeping next to living thing is not without its distractions. In many traditional societies (for example, village joint families), a husband and wife go to their separate rooms (or sections in the home) after enjoying conjugal bliss. I think it may have helped to keep the attraction alive for a longer time. I know the limitations of cramped apartments and nuclear families or large families, so this is only if you can afford it.

  • Sleep on your back (with hands folded on your tummy) or on your left side (with legs bent). Any other posture will either lead to labored breathing, or indigestion and build-up of stomach gases. I was pleased to find at least the left-side posture confirmed by medicinal studies.

  • Do not eat for a few hours before going to bed. If you are having a late dinner, have a light dinner. I don't recommend eating beyond 10pm anyway.

  • Having a glass of hot milk before sleeping has been generally recommended in traditional Indian families (my grandparents used to do this without fail), though it may not suit the lactose intolerant. And of course, do not have caffeine during the night.

  • Always either brush your teeth, or at least enthusiastically rinse your mouth before going to sleep. I also recommend washing your face.

  • If you are tired, having a warm bath before sleeping works wonders.

  • As much as possible, do not have vigorous air circulation where you sleep. That is, unless it is very hot, keep the fan speed to a minimum. It dries the skin and the hair.

  • If you sleep in an air-conditioned area, make sure the draft does not strike you on your face. You may catch a cold. And keep it just cool enough, not cold, as it will get colder as the night progresses.

  • Sleeping under the stars is a great experience but not very easy to have in a city.

  • Have at least some ventilation, unless it is stormy and deathly cold. Just a couple of mm opening in a window is enough.

  • Do not sleep stark naked under the sheets. This may be an accepted practice in rich homes in cold climates with heated interiors and private bedrooms, but in any other climate or culture, it is a bad idea. Unless you want to wash your sheets every day.

  • Always keep a sheet, even if it is warm enough when you go to sleep. It may turn cool during the night.

  • Reading something in the bed is a good aid to sound sleep, and takes your mind off what happened during the day.

  • Either have a soft pillow, or a thin pillow. A thick pillow is not good for your neck, especially if you sleep on your back. Modern desk jobs make people slouch and crane their necks forward, you only worsen it by having a pillow which stretches your neck muscles.

  • Try to go to sleep before midnight. Most people get up at around the same time every morning. The later you sleep, the more sleep-deprived you will feel the next day. I like to go to sleep before 11pm, and I wake up, almost everyday, at 6am.

  • Keep your feet warm in wintertime. Wearing a fresh pair of cotton or wool socks is a good way to do it. It also means you don't accidentally step on the cold floor if you have to get up during the night.

  • Silence your mobiles etc. and keep them away from you.

  • It is good to have a very faint light (almost like moonlight) coming into your room through a white curtain. Do not completely block outside light. In the morning, it is pleasant to have the room get slowly lighter in shade from the outside light. It helps you wake up.

  • Keep a glass of water, a clock, and napkins by the bedside when you go to sleep.

  • Eating in bed (whether at night, or in the morning) is not a good idea. It leads to germs and stains and general sloppiness. Media has portrayed "room-service breakfasts" (having food served to you in bed) to be a luxury. Of course you can't have it at home (you will end up soiling and spoiling the bed linen), but maybe that's the point. To generate two kg of laundry (four towels, bed sheets, pillow cases) every day if you are staying in a hotel is such a luxury. Bah.

  • If you are a couple, and if you have to sleep together, let the woman sleep on the left. This is not an esoteric tip. There are reasons for this. A man generally wants to feel protective of his woman, and if he sleeps on the left side of his body, as well as on the right side of the bed, he has his wife in his field of vision. And humans are right handed, and if he is on the left side of the bed, it may be more convenient for mammalian activities (feminists may want to decry both these "reasons"). Anyway, I like to sleep on the left side of the bed, so, there!

  • Keep the bed linen fresh and clean smelling. Make your bed when you get up in the morning.

  • Rinse your mouth the first thing in the morning. Have a glass or two of warm water. (ref this tasteless joke).

  • In the mornings, keep the first hour quiet and calm. Slowly let your body and mind regain their activity; and even if you are fresh and active when you get up, remain contemplative. I am pretty sure it is impossible when there are children in the house (a solitary morning-walk is a good idea if there are many occupants in the home). I have known some people who immediately switch on the television or start banging things in the kitchen or start talking. Some people may also like a bit of prayer, light chanting or instrumental music when the day breaks.


Bruce said...

I like a hot shower just before bed. Relaxes mind & body.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you forgot about the lullaby ...
"Go to sleep, Go to sleep. Go to sleep dear Harman....."
Don't worry, Don't bother about narcissists dear Harman..
Don't be rude or arrogant with Spiritualists dear Harman..
Don't be teased or irritated with actualists dear Harman..
Big Daddy will shoo them all away dear Harman
Sleep tight, don't let the bugs bite, dear Harman
Go to sleep, go to sleep .....

Anonymous said...

@anonymous: haha!


I always take a hot shower before going to bed ... its so refreshing, and thus I enjoy those few minutes in bed just before entering sleep.

I want to sleep on my back, but - perhaps due to my neck muscles - I tend to sleep on the sides. The problem is that I switch sides during the middle of the sleep (I am always partially-aware of my dreams as they happen). I feel that this may not give a restful sleep. I do remember one day during which I woke up in the same position I went to bed (lying on back) and it was good. Trying to recreate the same ...

Harmanjit Singh said...

Another tip from someone:

Invest in the highest quality mattress and bed linen that you can afford.

Anonymous said...

Interesting tips!

I think most people instinctively know some of the points you mentioned, but I myself hardly do what I know is the soundest thing to do. There are too many distractions from day-time activities, which make sleep less enticing in the night, and when I wouldn't have slept, more enticing in the day. But I haven't 'improved'. :D

Anonymous said...

Don't you think you are talking of the things you should be talking of in your fiftees?

Ruchi said...

Two very valid and less known points here - 1. about men instinctively feeling protective about their woman and where they should sleep in bed 2. about spending the first one hour of the morning in a contemplative mood or if possible absolutely vacant. This is deemed rather impossible by our busy professionals but is very much possible on most days of the year. It makes a huge difference to the entire day and in the long run you could find your life changing drastically.

Sleeping under the open sky too can be blissful if possible :-) Of course, we should keep our sleeping place (mostly, beds) as clean as possible.

The other points seem quite frivolous. Especially about new sheets. Sleeping on the floor without gimmicks can be as good an experience for a carefree mind as on a comfortable mattress with a dozen pillows etc.

Anonymous said...

Truly profound comment made through the lullaby here.

Anonymous said...

well, to sleep tight in night you need a hard work in day and peaceful mind at night is like garnishing a basic food. Dont you think!!!

Steve Berke said...

I enjoyed reading your article :) PLease continue publishing helpful topics like this. Regards, from beddingstock.

Steve Berke said...

I enjoyed reading your article :) PLease continue publishing helpful topics like this. Regards, from beddingstock.