Consistently getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. However, many of us are often so busy with work, family, social obligations and errands that we end up sacrificing sleep to fit everything in.
However, the consequences of sleep deprivation are widespread and include:
- Cognitive deficits – decreased reaction time and difficulties with concentration, memory, and decision- making.
- Poor mood, irritability, low energy, decreased libido, and poor judgment.
- Disruption of circadian rhythm.
- Increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke.
- Suppression of immune responses, leading to a higher susceptibility to illness.
- Weight gain and increased risk of diabetes through effects on appetite and hormone secretion.
Sleep deprivation can arise from either an insufficient amount of sleep and/or poor quality of sleep. Each person is different and some people need more sleep than others. Clinical wisdom and supporting research suggest that most people require approximately 8 hours of sleep nightly, although there is variation from person to person. Kids and teenagers need more sleep than adults. Older adults tend to take longer to fall asleep and wake more often during the night than younger adults. You know that you’re getting enough sleep when you don’t feel tired or drowsy during the day.
One of the most powerful ways to improve sleep is to make small changes in everyday behaviours that impact how fast you fall asleep and whether you stay asleep. The goal is to increase the behaviours that improve sleep while you reduce the behaviours that interfere with sleep. The following are just a few simple tips that can start you on the road to increasing your quality of sleep.
1. Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
Some people have problems sleeping when they have consumed too much caffeine, while drinking alcohol before bedtime can also cause breathing problems and jerky arms and legs.
Stress has an impact on sleep, so it’s important to take time to relax before bed. Reading a good book, taking a bath or shower and listening to calming music are a few ideas. Screen time is actually stimulating, so it’s best to avoid watching TV, going online or using other electronic devices just before bed.
3. Exercise a few hours before bedtime.
Research shows that people who exercise regularly (30 to 60 minutes, three times a week) have deeper sleep. Exercising gives you a boost of energy, so it’s best to exercise four to eight hours before bedtime.
4. Follow the same routine.
Try to keep the same sleep and wake schedule every day’including weekends. This helps your body get into a routine. People who get up and go to bed at different times each day are more likely to have sleep problems.
5. Get up if you do not fall asleep within half an hour.
Get up if you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes. Leave your bedroom and do something relaxing like listening to soft music, taking a bath, drinking a warm caffeine-free beverage or meditating. Go back to bed once you feel very drowsy. Don’t try too hard to fall asleep’this does not tend to work. At first, this strategy might feel like it’s making things worse because you may have a few sleepless nights. However, after several nights, it will become easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Be consistent in your use of this strategy. Studies show it is very effective in reversing sleep problems.
6. Make your bedroom comfortable and only use it for sleeping.
A mattress with good support and comfortable bedding are both helpful. Make sure your room is not too hot or too cold. Don’t use your bed for watching TV, working, studying or any other mentally stimulating activities, especially if you are already experiencing sleep problems.
Canadian Sleep Society – https://css-scs.ca
Here to Help British Columbia – www.heretohelp.bc.ca
National Sleep Foundation – http://sleepfoundation.org/