Enter Sandman

Jimmy Jacob        Print Edition: July 21, 2013

You count the first sheep, then the second, and by the time you get to the twelve thousandth, you are still no closer to dreamland than when you hit the pillow four hours ago. In the midst of all this, you have tossed and turned a million times, and more tragically, the idyllic pastural settings you painstakingly created in your mind's eye keep getting replaced by that nightmare of a worksheet from the previous day in office.

And as you herd away the woolly beasts in acknowledgment of complete defeat, you know exactly what's going to happen at work a couple of hours later. Bleary eyes, low concentration, irritability, exhaustion, missed deadlines and admonitions from superiors - the pink slip is probably just a week away.
The Sandman is no friend of yours.

Insomnia is the inability to achieve a certain kind of sleep - measured in terms of hours as well as quality - that would enable a person to wake up feeling rested and refreshed. Divyan George Varghese, a counsellor based in Chennai, says: "There are plenty of causes for insomnia. Most of them seem to be medical or physical -- like hormones, stimulants like coffee, nicotine and drugs. Stress and anxiety caused due to pressures at the workplace are, in fact, a huge cause of insomnia."

Insomnia affects thousands of professionals across India every year, and mostly, the visit to a specialist takes a while coming. Many initially try to tackle the sleep disorder on their own terms - even taking to narcotics or alcohol in a desperate attempt to catch their share of forty winks. A safer yet more effective route, however, lies in making a few changes in your lifestyle.

 The ayurvedic route to better sleep

Sirodhara is a rejuvenating ayurvedic therapy that is specifically designed to eliminate mental exhaustion and toxins, thereby curing insomnia. It involves pouring oil or milk on the patient's forehead from a distance for a specific time period.

Using essential oils like Lavender, Neroli, Sandalwood, Sweet Marjoram and Petitgrain as part of aromatherapy treatments also has a direct physiological and psychological effect, leading to relaxation and better sleep patterns.

Ayurvedic herbs used for curing insomnia include the Indian sorrel, rauwolfia, aniseed, ashwagandha, brahmi, jatamansi, lemon balm, passion flower and chamomile.

Other therapies such as abhyanga and siroabhyanga help alleviate stress levels, reducing insomnia triggers.


SCHEDULE YOUR SLEEP

Start by sticking to a regular sleep schedule and avoid unwanted naps during your free time, tempting as they may seem. If possible, avoid doing anything stressful or excitable - such as playing video games, arguing or in- dulging in vigorous exercise - for at least an hour before you hit the bed. And yes, that Evil Dead DVD had better remain in its rack.

BEDROOM'S FOR SLEEP. PERIOD

Sleep will never be a friend to you if it finds your bedroom uninviting. So, if your room has flashing lights or heavy metal blaring through 10,000-watt sound boxes round the clock, don't be too surprised if you are dogged by insomnia. Ensure that your bedroom is sufficiently dark when it's time for bed, and has all the equipment required for keeping the temperature at comfortable levels. More importantly, fight the urge to lug your television or Playstation in - it is important that your body starts identifying the bedroom as a sleep-only zone.

SILENCE PLEASE

Along with the Playstation and the television, try to keep noise out of the bedroom too. Now, it is not possible for everybody to sound-proof their bedrooms, and barking dogs, loud neighbours and vehicles cannot be silenced. So, alternatively, try masking the sounds with a fan, recordings of soothing sounds, or white noise. You can buy a sound machine or generate your own white noise by setting your radio between stations. Earplugs may also help.

SKIP THE COFFEE AND NIGHTCAPS
Coffee, being a stimulant, is certainly not a great bedtime drink. While alcoholic drinks may help you drift off, they affect the quality of sleep and - very often - make you snooze through the morning alarm. What's more, the people at office wouldn't appreciate alcohol on your breath either. You could, however, try milk. Whether it's the tryptophan it contains, or just the fact that it is identified as a bedtime drink, milk is something that helps send you down the road to dreamland. But if you are feeling too grown-up for that, try your hand at warm water infused with lemon wedges, ginger and honey instead.

THERAPY, YOGA AND MEDITATION
Yoga and meditation could be indirectly beneficial for people suffering from stress-induced insomnia. "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the best way to handle insomnia that's not caused by medical ailments. Yoga, meditation and relaxation exercises may help too, though I feel they deal more with stress and anxiety than the sleep disorder itself. But insomnia could disappear once the stress and anxiety are taken care of," says Varghese.

THE LAST RESORT

However, if these techniques do not help, a visit to the neighbourhood shrink would be in order. "Insomnia is not something that should be ignored," says the counsellor, "The complications arising from this disorder can be physical as well as mental. The brain will not function normally if it does not get enough rest. Sometimes, it even leads to mental instability."
Sleep like a baby droid
The party animal next door and the recent run-in with your snappy boss keeping you awake through the night? Give these sleep-inducing Android apps a try.

Lightning Bug - Sleep Clock
A hot favourite on Google Play, this app lulls you to sleep through nearly 200 exclusive samples of relaxing sounds and white noise soundtracks. What's more, it even mixes them for a different experience every night

Chroma Doze

You don't have to be a DJ for this one. Instead of music mixing, you just have to sketch your favourite spectrum and listen to the generated stream of coloured and white noise. The sounds it generates are based on Fourier Analysis Algorithms, which are proven to have soothing qualities.

Rain Effect Makes Deep Sleep

Corny name, sure, but have you noticed how much easier it is to sleep when it is raining? This app - with a rating of four stars - works on the same concept and Android users have given it the thumbs up. This app has the sounds of thunder, rain and drops pattering gently onto the ground


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