Sleep is the missing puzzle piece (2)
[Dated 05 April 2021 (6 minute read)]

StartWrightBy StartWright Consulting

Let me start by asking a simple question: How many of you took note of the World Sleep Day, last month? If you are not working in the Sleep Industry or suffering from a Sleep disorder, it is likely that World Sleep Day has come and gone for you just like the multitude of days that are marked on the calendar by social media feeds of marketing campaigns trying to make themselves heard.

Only this time, what you missed may have been way more important than the series of health interventions you have adopted to improve your health and fitness quotient. Take the example of Rouli. She has been on a strict diet for the last 1 year, has started exercising at least 4-5 times a week and still not able to achieve her desired weight loss. Or take the example of Shriv, who has cut down on carbs for the last 6 months and walks 10,000 steps every day but still not able to control his high cholesterol levels.

If this sounds familiar, you need to pay attention to your sleeping pattern. Sleep, along with Exercise and Good nutrition form the three essential pillars of a healthy lifestyle. So, if you are getting less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day, you will find it difficult to reach your desired health & fitness goals.

According to Dr. Harneet Walia, a sleep disorders expert and director of Sleep Medicine at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, “If you eat well and exercise regularly, but don’t get at least seven hours of sleep every night, you may be undermining all of your other efforts.”


What happens when you do not get enough sleep?

Lack of sleep may lead to more long-term and serious health problems. Studies have linked lack of sleep to the increased release of stress hormone, Cortisol. This leads to higher obesity, depression, impairment in immunity and lower sex drive. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, and increase the chances of heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Moreover, sleep deprivation can also lead to premature wrinkling and dark circles under the eyes as Cortisol can break down collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth.

One key benefit of getting enough good sleep is strengthening your immune system to help you prevent or limit infection in your body. Healthy sleep can support boosting the body’s immune defense and can even help you from getting sick as often.

Sleep not only increases your immune system function, it also has been shown to play a role in improving antibody responses to vaccinations. This means getting enough sleep before and after you are vaccinated can help vaccines work in your body. So pertinent to the times we are living in.

What happens when you do not get enough sleep?

Making Time for Sleep

While genetic, behavioral and environmental factors help determine how much sleep an individual needs, a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep is a must for adults and at least 8-10 hours for school going children. (*According to National Sleep Foundation, USA)

Having said that, it does look exceedingly difficult to plan your life around the early school start, erratic working hours and most importantly, the bottomless feeds of social media and content streaming apps. So, what can we do about it? Read on to know more.

8 Habits and Resources to help you Sleep Better

1. Get your 8 hours of sleep. Try to stick to the recommended number of hours a night for your age group. Put 8 hours of sleep as non-negotiable on your daily schedule. If you must wake up early, sleep early.

2. Consistent Bedtime. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. It’s important for your body to have a regular sleeping schedule.

3. Bedtime Routine. Set a relaxing bedtime routine, such as listening to calming music, reading a book or taking a warm bath. If you cannot sleep without watching TV or reading a book, put an alarm to end those tasks with a prompt to go to bed.

4. Right Sleep Environment. Create a sleep-friendly bedroom. Turn off electronic devices an hour before bed and sleep in a cool, dark room.

5. Get moving. If you do not have time to exercise regularly, try to get back to eco-friendly ways of commute. Use public transport, walk or cycle to work. A brisk walk or a swim or playing an outdoor game with your kids for 30 minutes every day can give you the exercise that your body needs.

6. Go easy on Caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the brain and make it hard for you to fall asleep. Research has shown that the effect of a caffeinated beverage on the body lasts 4-6 hours. Thus, it is best to ditch that coffee post 5p.m.

7. Do not ignore Snoring. Snoring is not just annoying; it may be a symptom of a chronic medical problem, like obstructive sleep apnoea(a sleep disorder in which your breathing is interrupted as you sleep). It is the most common sleep disorder and if left unnoticed can also lead to diabetes, hypertension, and stroke. Doctors recommend that anyone who snores should get a professional opinion to rule out sleep apnoea. You can begin by going to your ENT specialist or get a home sleep test. More on this in the next section.

8. Sleep Tech: the next big thing in healthcare

As the world discovers the criticality of sleep as the missing piece of puzzle in their holistic health journey, healthtech innovation in Sleep, or Sleep Tech is gaining more and more prominence. If you are already mindful of the tips detailed earlier but are not able to get quality sleep, then it may be the right time to get yourself familiar with Sleep Tech. In addition, the fact that sleep deprivation is not a linear problem with a one-size-fits-all solution, the solutions must be tailored to different segments with different tech capabilities.

Sleep Tech encompasses sleep tracking apps on one hand to diagnostic sleep tests on the other that can help to ascertain if you are suffering from a sleep disorder such as Sleep Apnoea, Narcolepsy or Insomnia. I am listing below the most common Sleep Tech available today to help you sleep better. This is not an exhaustive list and there are more Sleep Tech solutions being added to the space as we speak.

a. Sleep tracking Apps & Wearables

    • Wearables like Apple Watch and Fitbit to track and monitor sleep.
    • Sleep tracking Apps available on iOS as well as Android like SleepCycle, Lumihealth or Pillow.

b. Sleep Tracking Mats, Pillows and Weighted blankets

c. Meditation Apps to put you to sleep like Headspace, Calm and Breathe.

d. CPAP machines Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are one of the most common treatments for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Some people may require humidifiers and heating tubes to use their CPAP machine comfortably and effectively. You must go as per the recommendation of your doctor or Sleep Coach.

e. Home Testing kits for Sleep Apnoea A home sleep test is a simplified breathing wearable monitor that tracks your breathing, oxygen levels, and breathing effort overnight. Home Sleep tests are an easy, cost-effective way to figure out whether you’re having trouble breathing, says Susheel P. Patil, MD, PhD, clinical director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Medicine Program. However, as is true for any healthtech device, it is imperative to consult a Sleep specialist or an ENT specialist to arrive at the right diagnosis before beginning treatment.

For individuals with heart, breathing, or neuromuscular problems, an overnight sleep study at a sleep centre give a more thorough assessment of sleep issues. They are attended by a sleep technologist and capture many more signals, including brainwaves for sleep, muscle tone, and leg movements.

To Conclude

The focus for long has been on the do-good aspects of having a good sleep. However, conversation needs to move to the adverse effects of lack of sleep on the human body and its high correlation to respiratory diseases that are extremely serious in nature and can lead to adverse incidents, if left untreated or worse, undiagnosed. The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real. Just as you take steps to help protect yourself from infection and illness, make sleep a priority in your life as part of your overall health and well-being. So, the next time you skip your beauty sleep to mindlessly scroll down your smart phone, ask yourself, is your health worth it?

[About the author]

Shweta Shrivastava is a senior Marketing and Strategy leader turned start-up mentor. Having served as Marketing Head across large multinational companies, Shweta is currently an Investor & advisor to health and consumer tech start-ups in the Asian markets. Passionate about the intersection of healthcare and technology in democratising healthcare, Shweta features her blogs at StartWright Insights page. To get more updates on upcoming trends in healthtech and consumer tech, please follow her on linkedin or twitter

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