Mathew Chandy is a Sleep Evangelist and Managing Director of Duroflex Mattresses.
India is getting much more conscious about hygiene and hand sanitation. In a developing country like ours, the current situation is helping us inculcate good habits, something we have been careless about in the past.
Today, I want to bring to light about another immunity boosting super power that we all should bring back our focus on. For centuries, many have known that sleep is the backbone of our lives, but our cultural norms have made us look down on it. I hope that this will change.
Sleep is when our body does a deep cleanse and develops antibodies.
Every night, as we settle down to sleep, our mind and body slowly shuts down and goes into a deep cleanse. Harmful toxins get removed, antibodies are developed, our weary muscles recover and our essential hormones are regulated. The healthy functioning of every single organ in our amazing human bodies is primed as we sleep. Our bodies are beautifully designed and they can do a wonderful job of self-healing, but we must have the self-discipline to allow them to do this.
In the stress of our modern lifestyles, sleep is one such ritual which has been severely compromised. Sleep is the foundation of all health and well-being, and is a wonderful supplement to good nutrition and exercise. In fact, great sleep enhances your ability to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy balanced diet and stay fit and productive.
In a controlled medical study done in connection with common cold and rhino viruses at the University of California, San Francisco, by Dr. Aric Prather, it was observed that the virus infection rate fell dramatically for participants who had slept for 7 hours or more prior to the experiment. The infection rate was 50% for those who were sleeping 5 hours or less, and it dropped to 18% for those who had been sleeping for 7 hours or more.
While we cannot say with any kind of guarantee that sleep will protect you from contracting the viruses, we can confidently say that it is likely to boost your ability to fight it. Of course, in addition to the other preventative measures which are still equally important – hand sanitation, social distancing, Vitamin D, testing, etc.
Things I have been doing to improve my sleep
Normally, we are all so short of attention and intention and it’s good to pick the top three sleep enhancing measures. But these are extreme conditions and the virus threat is serious. We have sufficient time on our hands to practice all, and so I am listing all:
Eat Earlier and Lighter: I have been eating lighter and earlier in the night. I find that a heavy meal (especially greasy kebabs from Imperial) disturbs my sleep.
Reduce Alcohol: I am limiting my alcohol intake. Alcohol is not a sleep aid, it acts more like a sedative. It also increases my restlessness as I sleep. I’ve noticed on my sleep tracker that my average heart rate is 15% higher on nights where I have had just a couple of glasses of wine.
Coffee Earlier in the Day: I love my coffee, but I try to avoid caffeine after 3pm. It is a stimulant and can prevent you from falling asleep, or wake you up after you sleep. It takes a long time to leave your body.
No Gadgets in Bed: This is the hardest one. I try to turn off my mobile and TV 2 hrs before bed. The blue light of the screen disturbs my sleep hormone (melatonin) and the constant bad news makes it hard to fall asleep. As I said earlier, this one is hard!
Stay Cool: Our bodies sleep best at cool temperatures, ideally 18-21 degrees. I am not a fan of air conditioning in general, but in the hot summer months, the cool room has been great for my sleep.
Healthy Sleep Environment: Besides keeping the room cool, a clean and uncluttered sleeping environment helps me a lot. More books, less gadgets (other than my sleep tracker). I pay special attention to the support and firmness of my mattress as I exercise and travel quite a lot.
Wind Down: I try to do a few minutes or wind down meditation or yoga stretching. Some of you might prefer prayer. I find that a calm mind and stretched out body sleeps much more peacefully.
Consistency: Every day, I try and go to bed at the same time, and wake up at the same time. This routine helps to align with our bodies natural circadian rhythm. Weekend parties, Netflix binges and early morning exercise can all interfere with this routine, but those are now exceptional, especially NOW with immunity being so important.
For the last three months, I have been religiously developing my sleep rituals. I have also been tracking the progress on my sleep tracker and constantly changing things to get better sleep.
Sleep improves immunity of your mind and body. It is like a super drug, it is free, it is legal and it's fun. It has no side effects. Don’t use it in moderation. It could really help us to fight deadly viruses.