by Dr. Marita Schauch, ND – Tall Tree Integrated Health Centre –
How did you sleep last night? If you’re like around half of all Canadians, the answer is probably “OK” or “not that great.”
Getting good sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health. What’s the big deal about sleep? If you’re saying to yourself “I’m doing OK with my five hours a night,” I’d like to ask you: are you sure?
Long-term studies show that poor sleep habits may cause depression, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, higher risk of stroke and heart disease, a weakened immune system, increased inflammation, hormone imbalances, impaired brain function and weight gain.
Quality Matters. It doesn’t just matter how long you’re snoozing for; it also matters that you’re getting good quality “zzzs.”
Do you wake up frequently during the night? Do you wake up feeling not rested? Poor sleep can lead to the same effects as sleep deprivation.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene. The best way to ensure good sleep is to practise good sleep habits, or sleep hygiene. Much in the way you benefit from such practises as good oral hygiene or body hygiene, your sleep deserves the same attention.
- Go to Sleep at the Same Time Every Night. I know, I know,
you thought bedtimes were a thing of the past, but having a set
bedtime helps maintain your internal clock or circadian rhythm.
Develop a consistent routine so that you are rising and waking
with your body’s internal cues.
- Have Bedroom Boundaries. No working or TV in the
bedroom. Period. This helps create a space that is exclusively
for resting and allows your mind to better prepare for the
transition into sleep.
- Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol. Caffeine and other stimulants
shouldn’t be consumed less than six hours before bed to avoid
trouble sleeping. While many people find alcohol useful in
helping them fall asleep, it actually inhibits sleep quality as
your body works to break it down during the night.
- Avoid Large Meals Close to Bedtime. While it’s also not a
good idea to go to bed hungry, eating a large meal before bed
reduces sleep quality as your body works on digestion.
- Exercise at the Right Time. Vigorous exercise in the morning
or afternoon can help your body rest better at night. Close to
bedtime, walking, or yoga can also help prepare for sleep, but
anything vigorous will cause your body to be more stimulated
- Set Aside Time to De-Stress. Incorporating some unwind time
before bed goes a long way in preparing your body and mind
for rest. Yoga, meditation, journaling or a book are great ways to
unwind, but screens should be avoided.
- Turn Off Your Screens Before Bed. Bright blue light from your
devices and TV interrupt your sleep patterns. Even though most
devices now come with an automatic dimming and yellow filtering
system, I still recommend shutting any screens off at least one hour