Each person has unique sleep requirements that change as we age. Typically, adults need around 7 – 9 hours a night of restful sleep. Restful sleep is interpreted by each person differently and can be impacted by a number of factors.
According to information published by the Government of Canada, between 25 – 30% of Canadian adults are not getting enough sleep, and furthermore, 20% do not find their sleep restful or restorative.
When our sleep begins to deteriorate, it has immediate negative consequences on activities the following day, such as work or school performance. Insufficient sleep can decrease a person’s ability to handle daily stressors, it can intensify mental health problems, and it can negatively impact life satisfaction. Long term sleep problems can even lead to physical health problems such as weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
To properly address sleep issues it is necessary to practice positive sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a variety of practices that help develop and maintain positive sleep habits. Positive sleep hygiene practices can lead to being more alert during the day time, improved well-being, and allowing your body to focus on proper functioning.
The following list is only a few of the many practices that you can implement into your nighttime routine to ensure your body is getting adequate rest. If you find you are struggling with some of these practices, or you’re practicing sleep hygiene and still not feeling rested, be sure to consult with a health professional to see if there is an underlying condition impacting your sleep.
Here Are 6 Ways To Help You Improve Your Sleep
1. Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine, And Nicotine Before Bed
This is one of the most common suggestions for improving sleep. Coffee, as most people know, is a stimulant. It is best to avoid caffeine of any kind 4 – 6 hours before bed. Alcohol can also have a negative impact on the quality of sleep. Despite the sleepy effects alcohol is prone to give, it has negative effects on the quality of sleep as it becomes a stimulant a few hours after consumption. Stick to tea, or water, in those few hours before going to sleep.
2. Keep A Regular Sleep Schedule
It’s best to wake up and go to sleep around the same time every day (yes, even weekends). This is especially important for those struggling with their sleep quality. Try this sleep diary to help you track your sleep.
3. Exercise Regularly
Individuals who have 4 or more hours of sedentary time in their day report having more difficulties with restful sleep. Exercise helps the body to release energy, improve mental health and clarity, and support healthy functioning. Even a 30 minute walk after work or during a lunch break can have a positive impact to your sleep cycle and overall well-being.
4. Remove All Television, Phones, And Electronics From The Bedroom
Take a break from all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed. It’s important to maintain healthy boundaries with work and social media and use of technology. When you are using these devices in the last few hours before bed, consider using blue light blocking glasses.
5. Don’t Watch The Clock
Although you do want to keep a regular ‘bedtime’, it’s not helpful to go to bed if you’re not tired. Read a book or do something relaxing to help you get ready for sleep. Additionally, if you are lying awake in bed for 20 minutes or more, get out of bed and go to another room for a bit. Try practicing mindfulness or relaxation exercises and see if that helps.
6. Keep A Worry Journal
It’s quite common to have thoughts of the day run through your mind before falling asleep. Many people make mental to-do lists and process their day prior during this time. If you are finding it difficult to ‘turn off your mind’ before bed, consider getting into the practice of writing down important tasks or worries so that you can mentally set them aside until morning.
Hopefully this list gives you a few practical strategies to help you improve your sleep. Sleep is a vital part of healthy functioning and the lack of rest can have damaging consequences if let untreated. Commit to these strategies for a month and watch your quality of sleep improve!