Who doesn’t enjoy a good night’s sleep? Well, apparently, quite a few of us. According to a 2011 Université Laval study, approximately 40% of Canadians suffer from symptoms of insomnia.
Over time, a consistent lack of sleep (the National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7-9 hours per night for adults) can lead to serious health concerns such as obesity and heart disease and has even been linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to help increase the quantity, and quality, of your restful and restorative sleep.
…exercise. Yup, is there nothing exercise can’t help with? Daily aerobic exercise promotes increased sleep quality at night. Strenuous workouts right before bed, however, can backfire, so find the level and timing of activity that works for your body.
…keep it cool. Your body temperature decreases when you fall asleep, and keeping your bedroom at a reduced temperature of 16-19°C will help encourage this transition. Sleeping in an environment that is too hot or too cold can lead to restlessness that affects the quality of your REM sleep.
…turn out the lights. Not just when you tuck yourself in, but in the hour or two before you head to bed. Reducing your exposure to light can help prepare you for a better sleep. Once you’re in bed, keeping your room dark with blackout drapes or blinds helps to keep your body’s circadian rhythms in sync.
…stare at the screen of an electronic device at bedtime. The blue light these screens emit has been shown to interfere with sleep-promoting melatonin levels.
…nap for more than 30 minutes during the day. You may be tempted to “make up” for sleep you’ve lost at night, but unfortunately you can’t bank restorative sleep. A quick nap, however, can help to improve your alertness as well as your mood.
…consume alcohol or caffeine in the evening. Most people with sleep disorders will skip the double espresso before bed, but that nightcap isn’t doing you any favours either. Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but you won’t enjoy a deep, restorative level of sleep when you have too much alcohol in your system.
Other tips for a better sleep include keeping your room quiet, meditating or leaving your bed if you wake up and can’t back to sleep, consistently going to bed at the same time each evening, and adapting a calming pre-sleep ritual that could include bathing, reading or listening to calming music. A good quality melatonin supplement is another way to promote regular circadian rhythms and increase your total sleep time when you are travelling or have had a change of sleep schedule.