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Recently, sleep has been in the news for all the right reasons. Whereas previously people believed that when ‘you snooze, you lose’ a study that was presented in Australia last week suggests that getting a good night’s sleep (more than nine hours) suppresses certain genetic factors which are linked to weight gain, indicating that sleep is good for weight loss.

Another study found that children who did not get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per day were prone to becoming obese adults. This is because while sleeping the body produces an appetite suppressant, a hormone called leptin.

According to sleep specialists regular bedtimes and sleep hygiene are important to ensuring a good night’s sleep and staying healthy.

Here are some tips to help you get the right amount of good quality sleep:

  • Call it a night at 10:00 pm; any later and you will miss out on the vital initial stages of sleep and wake up feeling tired. Remember, an hour before midnight is always worth two after!
  • Have a pre-bedtime ritual (a shower or brushing your teeth); this will help send the right signals to the brain.
  • Create an environment conducive to sleep, which means low or no light and no noise; use an eye mask and ear plugs if you are a light sleeper.
  • Avoid power/energy drinks after midday, caffeine after 5:00 pm and tobacco after 8:00 pm; they over stimulate the body.
  • Do not nap or exercise after dusk.
  • Avoid using your laptop, cell phone or watching television at bedtime as they over-stimulate the brain.
  • If sleep eludes you even after an hour in bed, read a book and make it a boring one!
  • Spend time in the sunlight; watching the sun go down helps relax and tells the body to ‘call it a day’. Research indicates that people who are not exposed to direct sunlight are prone to being depressed or have problems sleeping.

– Dr Summaiya Syed-Tariq
The writer is a forensic practitioner and freelance writer.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 27, 2012.