Information gathered and prepared by H. Wiens MSc., RP.Registered Psychotherapist Portage Medical Family Health Team
A good night’s sleep that is 7-9 hours in duration has broad health benefits, such as improving the immune system, diminishing our risks for dementia, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even obesity. Sleep also has a profound effect upon our degree of concentration and ability to encode memory. Sleep increases the degree of serotonin and dopamine within the brain that has a direct impact upon mood, energy level and overall degree of happiness.
In these challenging times, we need restorative and restful sleep more than ever. Here are some tips to consider.
10 Strategies to improve sleep:
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This allows the pineal gland to produce enough melatonin so that you begin to feel sleepy and fall asleep much sooner, to acquire deeper quality sleep for a longer duration.
- Set an alarm for bedtime. A regular night-time routine will signal to the body and brain that it is time to wind down.
- Engage in non-stimulating activities. Listen to relaxing music, nature sounds or podcasts such as Sleep with Me. Adult coloring books have the same effect as meditation to calm brain activity. Reading a magazine or calming book may also be soothing. Take some time to engage in relaxation strategies, such as deep belly breathing while saying a mantra and imagining a calming scene. Be sure to complete stimulating activities such as eating or doing chores at least 2 hours prior to bedtime. Limiting liquids will also minimize trips to the bathroom during the night.
- Shut off all electronics. A tablet, phone, PC or TV’s backlight reduces the amount of melatonin available for falling asleep in a timely manner to acquire deep and restful sleep.
- Cool off. Keep the bedroom at 18-20 Celsius, which allows the body to acquire restful REM sleep, which is restorative to cells and brain chemistry.
- Darken room and get morning light. Research indicates keeping the room dark or wearing a sleep mask results in deeper quality sleep. While getting sunlight during the day helps to set our circadian rhythm.
- Exercise. This allows the body to release body tensions and lactic acid that accumulates within muscle tissue. Be sure to complete your workout at least 3 hours prior to bedtime. Engaging with progressive muscle relaxation will also alleviate tension.
- Limit caffeine intake. Assess how many cups of coffee, pop, energy drinks and chocolate is ingested daily and try cutting back to improve your quality of sleep. Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours prior to bedtime.
- Deal with ruminations. Write a worry list, at least 2 hours prior to bedtime. Create a gratitude journal, in which you write three things that you are grateful for today. Engage in thought stopping by telling yourself that you will deal with the issue tomorrow and instead turn your attention to your relaxation strategies. You may also challenge your negative thought by replacing that thought with counter evidence.
- Re-think your nap. Naps that are longer than 30 minutes in duration may disrupt the amount of melatonin required for a good night sleep.