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I usually get average 5 hours sleep. I used to try to sleep around 10.30 or 10.45. After taking food at 9 pm, I used to watch TV. In the night I used to wake up between 3.30am and 4.30 am. Then I had no sleep. How do I counter this issue?

As you have rightly identified, this is a cause for concern. A reduced total sleep time of 5 hours is less than the recommended total sleep time required to achieve and maintain good health. I would advise you to maintain an accurate sleep log, to identify the number of nights you are having this issue. There are several causes for insomnia, one of which, you have mentioned in your query such as watching tv, or exposure to electronics. It has been studied that the blue light emitted from these gadgets reduces the release of melatonin, a sleep hormone. This reduced concentration alters your sleep architecture. Also at times, early morning awakenings may be a presenting feature of a mood disorder like stress/ anxiety or depression.

Also, I would advise you to maintain healthy eating habits and an exercise routine, including relaxation therapies to reduce one’s arousal threshold. Also, note that a rigorous exercise routine close to bedtime and nicotine and alcohol can all have an adverse impact on your sleep. If this persists and it is impacting your next day performance, I would strongly recommend a detailed evaluation for insomnia, and you would need to contact your sleep physician for further investigation.

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I don't have a problem in sleeping schedule, but the actual problem comes when it's time to wake up. I find very difficult to wake up early morning for my studies. Can you suggest something to solve this issue?

Unable to wake up in the morning at an appropriate time, or feeling unrefreshed on awakening, can be manifestations of underlying sleep disorders. It will be imperative that you maintain a detailed sleep log of your time in bed and total sleep time before we identify the issue that is leading up to your inability to wake up on time and refreshed. It may be that you are suffering from insufficient sleep syndrome, where you tend to chronically restrict your total sleep time or deprive yourself of sleep, and hence, have difficulty waking up the next morning.

As you mentioned, that you are studying, it is quite common at this age to suffer from a circadian sleep disorder such as delayed sleep phase syndrome. Some of the symptoms of this disorder are finding it difficult to fall asleep, especially till the wee hours of the morning. This then leads to a later wake-up time, which can be accommodated for on weekends but not on the days you need to show up to college to attend lectures. It is important to identify these disorders as they can have a comorbid link with underlying mood disorders such as depression, reduced immunity, obesity and also, have an impact on your productivity and academic performance.

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Is sleeping in two breaks like 4 hours in the night and then another 4 hours in day correct?

You have raised a very important point. In a 24-hour cycle that is very hectic, especially when we have jobs that demand shift work, I am often asked if sleeping in two breaks to complete the 8 hours requirement can substitute for a continuous 8 hour sleep period. But I am afraid that this is not true.

Our sleep is most restorative when it is an ideal cumulative result of a homeostatic and circadian rhythm drive. The circadian rhythm is the day-night cycle that has an impact on the human pace-maker or the suprachiasmatic nucleus present in the brain. Dependent on the circadian rhythm are several hormones such as cortisol that are important for our wellbeing. Also, If we restrict our sleep to 4-hour periods in the night, we tend to restrict our REM (Rapid eye movement) sleep periods during the early morning hours. This, in turn, can have an impact on our memory processing.

Hence, it is essential to take time out to sleep for a healthy life and maintain a 7-8 hour period of continuous sleep during the nocturnal period.

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Sleep
Expert

Preeti Devnani

Dr. Preeti Devnani MD.,
ABPN,D,ABIM,FAASM is the Clinical Director of the comprehensive Sleep Disorder Clinic in Mumbai and a consultant physician at the Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre Mumbai – Department of Neurology, l Neurophysiology and Sleep Medicine

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