6 Lifestyle Changes for Better Sleep
- Jun 08, 2021
At Aroga Lifestyle Medicine, treatments for sleep disorders are delivered within the framework of board-certified Lifestyle Medicine. This means that our sleep specialists will analyze all of the lifestyle factors that contribute to sustainably healthy sleeping habits, like nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, positive relationships, and the controlled use of substances. Our sleep specialists can suggest different lifestyle changes that can help you ameliorate your sleep, and as always, each suggestion depends on the unique circumstances and whole context of your life.
So before you see a doctor about your sleeping issues, you may want to take a moment to consider what aspects of your current lifestyle could be improved. Continue reading to learn 6 Lifestyle Changes that can help you get better sleep!
You probably already know that eating healthy, whole foods is beneficial for your health. It is also beneficial for healthy sleep. Both what you eat and when you eat can have a significant impact on your sleep.
Recent studies have found that diets high in refined carbohydrates may be associated with an increased risk of insomnia symptoms, and diets that include foods such as whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables may be associated with a lower risk of insomnia symptoms. (1), (3)
“For patients suffering from insomnia, I strongly recommend the information available at mysleepwell.ca” – Dr. Laura McLean
There is also evidence that limiting your eating to approximately a 12-hour window and consuming the majority of calories earlier in the day as opposed to later can not only lead to improvements in health parameters such as blood pressure and insulin resistance but can also be associated with improved sleep quality and increased energy levels. (2), (4)
Physical activity is an important factor for improving your daily life. It can improve your mood, help you manage stress, as well as lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other conditions.
Another thing that regular exercise can help with is sleep. It can help you fall asleep easier, as well as get higher quality sleep.
The best timing of exercise is different for different people and there are no hard and fast rules. Any time you can fit exercise into your schedule is a good time. If you are doing high-intensity exercise in the evenings, it is recommended that this be completed at least 90 minutes before you go to bed, so that your body temperature can drop, which helps your body and brain prepare for sleep.
Before going to bed, gentle exercises such as stretching, yoga, or tai chi can be a helpful part of your routine and may improve your sleep quality.
Mindful meditation is a great way to calm your body and mind. While incorporating this practice in any part of the day is beneficial to your health, it can be very helpful to make it a part of your regular bedtime routine. (7)
This practice can help you to relax and calm yourself and give your body the signal that it is time to sleep, which may help you to fall asleep and will contribute to higher quality sleep.
The relationships that you hold with the people around you can greatly impact many aspects of your life. Even when you are sleeping.
When we are asleep, we are vulnerable. That is why we naturally sleep better when we feel safe. Positive and supportive relationships can help with feelings of safety and security and can lead to deeper more restful sleep. (8)
Consuming alcohol is a big part of many social events and social situations. Drinking alcohol in these situations may reduce your social anxiety, and make it easier to interact with people.
Similarly, you might also think that alcohol is a useful tool for sleep because you’ve noticed that it makes you drowsy, but that does not mean that you’re sleeping well. Although alcohol may make you feel sleepy, going to bed with alcohol in your system ultimately has a negative impact on the quality of your sleep. That is because alcohol is causing a reduction in REM sleep, and is also causing a disrupted and “lighter” sleep. (10)
When it comes to sleep, consuming no alcohol at all is the best thing you can do. However, if you do consume alcohol, we recommend limiting your intake to 1 or 2 drinks in the late afternoon or early evening, at least several hours prior to bedtime.
A good way to appreciate how your daily habits may be affecting your sleep is to think about how human beings evolved.
For example, when the sun rises each morning, we should be rising with it and we should be exposing ourselves to as much natural light as we can early in the day. This gives your brain the signal that it is time to wake up and it is the number one best way to set your entire 24-hour sleep-wake cycle.
When the sun goes down in the evening and it starts to get dark, our bodies naturally slow down to get ready to fall asleep. However, phones, TVs, computers, and other blue light-emitting devices can trick our brain into thinking that the body needs to stay awake. That is because blue light suppresses the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy and drowsy. A lack of melatonin can make it harder to fall asleep. (6)
To strengthen the signal to our brain that sleep time is approaching, you can try dimming the lights in your homes and turning off screens a few hours before bed.
If you need to be in front of a screen in the evening, then protect your eyes from blue light by wearing glasses like these:
Or you can try using software such as f.lux to adjust your screen and filter out the blue light.
However, if you are following all the rules of how to get good sleep, yet you continue to have a lot of difficulty sleeping, or if you experience symptoms of daytime sleepiness or severe fatigue despite getting what should be enough hours of sleep, then you may have a sleep disorder. It is important that you discuss this with your family physician or get referred to a sleep specialist. Sleep disorders are surprisingly common, are under-recognized, and can have serious health consequences, but they are mostly very treatable.
When your body and brain are not getting their rest and sleep, all aspects of your personal and professional life are affected. You are easily stressed and irritated, have trouble concentrating and you may experience daytime lack of energy.
If you are experiencing some or all of these things because of issues with your sleep, and you want to make a change, you can get help with sleep services at Aroga Lifestyle Medicine.
Ask your doctor for a referral to Aroga for your sleep concerns. You can download referral forms from our website at www.aroga.com/contact. For more information about Aroga’s services or the process of becoming a patient, call 888.80.AROGA, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or instant message us through our website’s live chat.
Dr. McLean is a consultant physician in sleep disorders with experience practicing internal medicine, respiratory and critical care in Southern Vancouver Island for many years. She has experienced the benefits of sleep, fitness, plant-based nutrition, and mindfulness meditation in her own life, and likes to share this with her patients, who also have taught her a lot over the years.