Sleep is an often overlooked but vital part of our overall health. Getting adequate sleep can not only give us the energy to tackle our day to day responsibilities but can also make these experiences more enjoyable. When we are feeling refreshed from a good night’s sleep we are better able to make decisions that will benefit our health and wellbeing, such as eating well, exercising, and forming meaningful connections with others.
Top 5 Sleep Tips
Avoid Sleep Disruptors
It is advised to avoid screens (TV, phone, tablets) at least 2 hours before going to bed. Blue light that is transmitted from screens can disrupt our sleep-wake cycles by interfering with the hormone melatonin that makes us feel sleepy. You should also avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine up to 6 hours before going to sleep as these substances can disrupt your REM sleep.
Relax & Destress
Stress increases our cortisol levels which can interfere with melatonin production making it especially important to limit stress around bedtime. Stress-reducing techniques to try before bedtime include taking a hot bath or foot soak with calming essential oils such as lavender or chamomile and listening to calming nature sounds. If you find you simply cannot “shut off your mind” before bed, try a guided meditation. There are many free apps available such as Insight Timer and Headspace. Another strategy is to keep a journal at your bedside to job down any thoughts or worries that keep you awake.
Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule
Try your best to get to bed at the same time each night to prepare your body for sleep at a regular time each night. Try to wake up around the same time each morning or at least within a 1 hour window. This may be more of a challenge on the weekends when it can be tempting to sleep in, however if you find yourself naturally waking up early on weekends, try your best not to fall back asleep. This will help you immensely during weekdays when you can’t fall back asleep!
Be Mindful of Daytime Naps
Try to avoid napping after 3pm and limit naps to only 20 minutes. When you feel sleepy during the day, make a habit of going outside and getting some natural light exposure. Natural light can suppress melatonin production, so use this to your advantage by getting lots of natural light exposure during the daytime. This will help your body produce more melatonin when you go to sleep in a dark room at night.
Staying Asleep Though the Night
If you find yourself waking up during the night try a few of these tips.
- Sit up in bed and take 3 or 4 long, deep breaths
- Try this breathing technique: breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale through pursed lips for 8 seconds
- Read something that you will be able to put down
- Cut off fluids 2-3 hours before bedtime if you find yourself waking to use the washroom