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Sleep Deprivation - What's the big deal

Sleep Deprivation - What's the big deal

My first impression of our present-day-sleep-scenario is that “we are a sleep-deprived society”. That may be a bold statement to start with, but sleep-deprivation is what I see in most of my patients and non-patients.

Sleep deprivation is a condition that occurs if you don't get enough sleep. How much sleep one needs depends on one's age.

India is the second most sleep-deprived nation, after Japan - a claim made by Fitbit (the wearables maker), based on their study conducted with data collected anonymously from users from 18 countries - India, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Spain, the UK and the US.

Sleep, as we know, has a very important role in the regulation of all of our body’s physiological functions, including learning and memory consolidation. Therefore, depriving our body of this so very important function lets loose a tall order of challenges (see Sleep Deprivation - Consequences).

A prominent interventional cardiologist, in a recent Interview (February 2020) for a publication called Business Line quoted “A large number of young patients have had a heart attack or a stroke or have been diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension or even cancer. Many factors may lead to such diseases, but sleep deprivation is the one that is least talked of”.

I agree with the cardiologist - we need to address sleep deprivation on a regular basis, and incorporate changes to our lifestyles - all in order to improve health and improve quality of work. Sleeping fewer hours than what is recommended, and that too on a regular basis, should not be something to boast about!

Attempts are being made by the Indian Society for Sleep Research in incorporating a National Sleep Policy into the National Health Policy of India. Attempts currently are focused on increasing awareness amongst policy makers and the public regarding sleep deprivation and its consequences.

While policy makers do their magic, which may take time, here are a few personal tips from me to address sleep deprivation:


  • Meticulously plan your sleep hours- discuss your requirements with family and people at work.
  • Get up and go to bed the same time every day - this helps with training your brain to reprogram itself.
  • Optimize your sleep environment - keep the room dark, minimize noises, maintain a comfortable room temperature.
  • Refrain from watching TV, telephone, tablet or computer before attempting to sleep. Leave a gap of at least an hour. Reading a book with the right light is fine.
  • Don’t take your worries and responsibilities to bed.
  • Do not watch the clock.
  • Minimize napping during the day.
  • Refrain from heavy exercise at least 2 hours before bed.
  • Have a very light meal before sleep.
  • Stay away from caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol at least 4-6 hours before bed.
  • If you have any medical issues that is interrupting your sleep-time or quality of sleep, consult your doctor.

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