Lack of sleep
Lack of sleep increases risk of aggressive breast cancer. Reuters

Sleep is the most essential thing for all, but most of us do not get the shut eye that we so badly need. Sleep deprivation can lead to numerous health problems.

On World Sleep Day today, 16 March, 2012, an official committee has come up with new recommendations to encourage healthy and undisturbed sleep.

World Sleep Day is designed to raise awareness of sleep as a human privilege that is often compromised by the habits of modern life. Also highlighted on the day are sleep problems such as obstructive sleep apnea.

Lack of sleep can lead to numerous health problems such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Insufficient sleep could lead to poor alertness, lack of attention, reduced concentration, decreased work and academic productivity, and even motor vehicle accidents.

World Sleep Day, an annual event, is intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, social aspects and driving. It is organised by the World Sleep Day Committee of the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM) and aims to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders.

On World Sleep Day, a set of new recommendations for adults as well as children:

  • Establish a regular bedtime and waking time.
  • If you are in the habit of taking siestas, do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime sleep.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion 4 hours before bedtime, and do not smoke.
  • Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
  • Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 hours before bedtime. A light snack before bed is acceptable.
  • Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
  • Use comfortable, inviting bedding.
  • Find a comfortable sleep temperature setting and keep the room well ventilated.
  • Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
  • Reserve your bed for sleep and sex, avoiding its use for work or general recreation.

Here are 10 recommendations for children:

  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep by setting an age-appropriate bedtime and waketime.
  • Set consistent bedtime and wake-up times on both weekdays and weekends.
  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine that includes "quiet time."
  • Encourage your child to fall asleep independently.
  • Avoid bright light at bedtime and during the night (including light from television or computer screens) and increase light exposure in the morning.
  • Keep all electronics, including televisions, computers and cell phones, out of the bedroom and limit use of electronics before bedtime.
  • Maintain a regular daily schedule, including consistent mealtimes.
  • Have an age-appropriate nap schedule.
  • Ensure plenty of exercise and time spent outside during the day.
  • Eliminate foods and beverages containing caffeine.