How to get the right amount of shut-eye even with a hectic schedule.
The lazy days of summer are ending, and life’s about to get busy again with school and work back in full swing. The big question is, Does your schedule allow enough time for a good night’s sleep? All too often sleep gets put on the back burner in favour of finishing homework or preparing for tomorrow’s important presentation. In fact, a report by Statistics Canada found that one-third of Canadians sleep less than the recommended seven to nine hours a night. When we don’t get enough shut-eye we can get irritable, stressed and more prone to getting sick. What’s more, it’s estimated that a lack of sleep costs Canadian businesses about $21 billion a year in lost productivity.
A restful sleep each night can help you feel healthier, happier and more productive. Here are some tips to get snoozing.
A good night’s sleep should be high on your priority list, so if it helps, why not include it in your daily schedule? Block off seven to nine hours during the same time slot each night – even on weekends. Keeping your biological clock on a regular schedule can help ensure the sleep you get is restful.
Create a pre-bed ritual
If you have trouble winding down after a hectic day, try some calming pre-bedtime activities such as a bath, reading, meditation or writing in a journal. The goal is to train your mind and body that it’s time to settle down for the night.
Darkness triggers production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, and too much ambient light – including the blue light from a smartphone or tablet – can suppress it. The darker your bedroom, the more likely you are to sleep well. Consider installing blackout curtains to block streetlights and removing electronics with light up displays. If you like to read e-books before nodding off, try using a reader that isn’t backlit, or a screen cover that minimizes blue light from the device.
Take the pressure off
Poor sleep is our number-one response to stress. And it’s a double-edged sword — not getting enough shut-eye increases stress. So how do you break the cycle? Find ways to recharge throughout the day. Take ten minutes to go for a walk, practise mindfulness exercises, try yoga or download a deep-breathing app.
Our body temperature naturally drops as we’re falling asleep, so a cool room can help that process along. An environment that’s too warm may inhibit drifting off. Ideal bedroom temperatures range from 18 to 22°C (65 to 72°F) – experiment to see what works best for you.
People who exercise regularly tend to sleep better. Working out three or four times a week can make a real difference over time. But be careful not to hit the gym too close to bedtime – the adrenalin from your workout could end up keeping you awake.
Eat to sleep
Did you know that certain foods can help you nod off at night? Your body needs vitamin B6 to make melatonin, so eating B6-rich foods like fish, bananas, chickpeas, nuts and lentils can help. Other foods such as walnuts, some dairy products and turkey contain tryptophan, a sleep enhancing amino acid that helps your body make serotonin and melatonin.
It’s no surprise that cutting back on caffeine can reduce wakefulness. But did you know that alcohol inhibits sleep, too? Yes, that glass of wine may help you drift off, but as its effects wear off, you’re more likely to wake up. You may want to avoid overhydrating before bed, too – it will mean fewer trips to the bathroom.
If you frequently have trouble falling asleep, you may want to talk to your doctor to rule out sleep apnea or any other underlying causes. It’s also a good idea to get the go-ahead from your doctor to ensure these strategies are right for you.
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 Jean-Philippe Chaput, Suzy L. Wong and Isabelle Michaud, “Duration and quality of sleep among Canadians aged 18 to 79,” September
20, 2017, Statistics Canada, www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2017009/article/54857-eng.htm (accessed March 12, 2019).