Along with good nutrition and exercise, sleep is recognized as one of the pillars of good health. Over recent years we’ve come to understand how important god sleep is to our health and well-being.
Most people think they can cut corners when it comes to sleep and work off their sleep debt on the weekend. However, a lack of sleep can have a major impact on mood, concentration, memory and quality of life. In addition, medical sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to contribute to other serious health issues such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
If you are not sleeping well - or long enough - at night, try the tips below to improve the quality of your sleep and to ensure you are properly rested the following day.
1. Create Healthy Sleep Habits
A key consideration that can help improve sleep is healthy sleep habits.
- If you’re going to snack before going to bed, make sure it’s nothing heavy.
- Definitely avoid consuming any caffeine for many hours before going to sleep. This means no caffeinated coffee, tea, or cola, and no chocolate.
- In tems of alcohol, you might think it helps you sleep, because a glass of wine or something similar can make you feel sleepy, but alcohol begins to metabolize as soon as you consume it and that is going to interfere with your sleep, not improve it.
- The same goes for smoking, because nicotine is a stimulant and it will interfere with your sleep.
- Finally, regular exercise through the day is a good thing that can help you sleep, but don’t exercise vigorously in the few hours before sleeping, because you’ll feel too worked up to fall asleep.
2. Follow A Routine
An important way to improve your sleep is to follow a sleep routine.
A sleep routine is a ritual that you follow every night so that your body and your mind knows that you are preparing to sleep when the time comes to go to bed.
- As the time for sleeping draws near, have some warm milk
- Or have a hot bath or shower.
- Always try to go bed at the same time, and make sure you use your bed for sleep and not watching television or chatting on the phone…Your bed is for sleeping and lovemaking and nothing more.
- And when the time to sleep has come, and you’re lying in bed, practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or visualizing a calm and pleasant scene.
3. Slow Your Mind
A key ingredient to a good night’s sleep is to slow down and calm your mind.
When you go to sleep with thoughts racing through your mind, you won’t be able to relax and your sleep will be disrupted or fitful.
Think about the ways you can calm your mind before going to sleep:
- Try writing things down in a journal as part of your pre-sleep routine.
- Or try meditation or another relaxation technique that helps calm the mind.
- Or focus your thoughts on one thing like a word, a sound, an image, or a sensation. Because you can only focus your attention on one thing at a time and if you make that focus on something calm and relaxing, you’ll be more likely to fall asleep.
4. Have a regular sleep pattern
Help your body to establish a healthy sleep routine by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. Try to go to bed at around the same time every evening and get up at around the same time every morning. Improved sleep will not happen as soon as changes are made. But if good sleep habits are maintained, sleep will certainly get better. Find what time works for you and stick with it.
5 .Spend the right amount of time in bed
While 8 hours of sleep is recommended, some people require more and some require less.
Many poor sleepers spend much more than 8 hours in bed and this makes fragmented sleep a habit. Except if you have lengthy sleep requirements, limit your time in bed to no more than 8.5 hours. If you often take hours to fall asleep, go to bed later. Remember that children need more sleep than adults.
6.Bed is for sleeping, not entertainment
Computers, phones and TV can disrupt your sleep. Your mind needs to associate being in bed with sleeping rather than watching TV or using your computer. Don’t stay in bed if you’re wide awake.
7.Relax and wind down before going to bed
Try to establish a buffer zone before bedtime where you’re not trying to solve any problems or thinking about tomorrow, but just relaxing and preparing for bed. Try to avoid using your computer and smartphone during the bedtime buffer zone. Exercise is fine, but not too late in the evening. Find a relaxation technique that works for you and practise it regularly, during your wind down period.
8.Make sure your bedroom is comfortable
Your room should be the right temperature, as well as quiet and dark. Make sure you have comfortable bedding and try to keep known stressors out of your bedroom.
9. Alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes – to be avoided
Alcohol may help you to get off to sleep, but will disrupt your sleep during the night. Caffeine (tea,
coffee, cola drinks) and the nicotine in cigarettes are stimulants that can keep you awake.
10. Don’t nap during daytime
Sleeping during the day will make it much more difficult to sleep well at night. If a nap is absolutely
necessary, for example because of a late night, then limit this to about twenty minutes. Make sure
that you are awake for at least 4 hours before going back to bed. Don’t allow yourself to fall asleep in front of the TV – not even for a minute.
Note:Find professional help if you are still having trouble sleeping, if you have persistent problems with mood, if you have excessive daytime sleepiness, restlessness in bed, severe snoring or waken unrefreshed despite what should be adequate length sleep.
For more information about energy, fatigue, and sleep, the following resources may be helpful.
- Canadian Sleep Society. https://css-scs.ca/
- National Sleep Foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/
- Sleep Apnea. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/sleep-apnea.html
- Resources and prevention strategies to manage Fatigue in the workplace. Public Services Health and Safety Association. https://www.pshsa.ca/fatigue/
- Fatigue Answer Sheet. Canadian Occupational Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/fatigue.html