When was the last time you had a good sleep? Like a really good sleep? Yeah, it’s hard for me to remember too.
Balancing work, school, home obligations, and a social life, as well as trying to squeeze in a solid eight hours of sleep each night is a tall order for most of us. Even those who find the time to get to bed early enough often spend considerable time staring at their ceiling before finally drifting off.
A study from Statistics Canada has shown that only 65% of Canadians get the recommended number of hours per night in bed, but this doesn’t even begin address sleep quality concerns. This study also found that about half of Canadians wake up feeling unrefreshed in the morning. These statistics are concerning as inadequate sleep has been linked to depression, irritability, a reduced sense of well-being, and mental inefficiency, as well as a whole host of other mental-health maladies.
But really, who can blame us for struggling to find sleep? We live in a 24/7 world, where the boundaries between work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred (thanks Covid-19). Because of this reality, it’s becoming increasingly important to be conscious about our sleeping patterns.
To provide some assistance with increasing your sleep quality — and help you feel better and get more done — here are three practical tips:
1. Eliminate screen-time before bed
I know I’m not the only one who enjoys winding down an evening by catching up on my new favourite show on Netflix, scrolling through social media, or browsing Amazon’s deals. However, studies have shown that screen time before bed can block the production of naturally occurring melatonin (the “sleepy” drug) in the brain. This results in feelings of wakefulness and leads to hours of the dreaded staring-at-the-wall-thinking-about-what-you-will-wear-tomorrow game. This happens because of the blue light emitted by electronic back-lit devices, like phones, TVs, and computer screens. So, instead of cramming in another episode of The Mandalorian, read your favourite book instead.
2. Lower caffeine consumption
Did you know that Canada is ranked third in the world for coffee consumed per capita? Studies have shown that caffeine intake even 6 hours before bedtime can have a negative impact on sleep patterns and lead to sleep disturbance. To avoid this, try switching from coffee to herbal tea in the afternoon.
3. Maintain a regular sleep schedule
Many of us burn the candle at both ends and make up for a late night with a late morning, or vice versa. However, experts recommend going to bed and getting up at a similar time, consistently. This allows your body to release melatonin and reinforce the natural sleep-wake cycle. If you get into this practice, you may not even need to rely on your alarm clock anymore; your body will just know that it’s time to rise and shine!
Blog post by Oliver Fenske, Volunteer.
Chaput, J., Wong, S., & Michaud, I. (2017, September 20). Duration and quality of sleep among Canadians aged 18 to 79. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2017009/article/54857-eng.htm
Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 09(11), 1195-1200. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170
Government of Canada, S. (2017, September 20). Table 4 Sleep quality, by age group, sex and frequency of meeting sleep duration recommendations, household population aged 18 to 79, Canada excluding territories, 2007 to 2013. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2017009/article/54857/tbl/tbl04-eng.htm
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Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, April 17). 6 steps to better sleep. Retrieved December 01, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379
Salk Institute. (2011, September 29). “Alarm clock” gene explains wake-up function of biological clock. Retrieved December 01, 2020, from https://www.salk.edu/news-release/alarm-clock-gene-explains-wake-up-function-of-biological-clock/
Shechter, A., Kim, E. W., St-Onge, M. P., & Westwood, A. J. (2018). Blocking nocturnal blue light for insomnia: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of psychiatric research, 96, 196–202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.10.015