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Posted by Dr. Scott Wilson | 01-Jun-2022
Sleep hygiene is a term that you may have never heard before. However, if you’re among the one-in-three Canadian adults who suffer from a lack of sleep or poor quality sleep, it’s something you’re going to want to know more about.
Getting enough good quality sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being. In terms of our physical health, a chronic lack of good quality sleep can lead to obesity, reduced immune system functioning, high blood pressure and heart failure or stroke. It can also have a negative impact on our cognitive functioning and mental health leading to a reduced focus, concentration and decision making and increased anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.
The good news is that if you do suffer from a lack of sleep or poor quality sleep, there are specific changes you can make to your sleep hygiene that can help you sleep better at night and avoid the risks identified above. However, before we look at the top 5 sleep hygiene tips on how to sleep better, let’s take a quick look at exactly what sleep hygiene really means.
Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe a set of habits, behaviours and environmental factors that affect your quantity and quality of sleep. Some adverse sleep outcomes are the result of physiological or psychological challenges. However, other adverse sleep outcomes are caused by bad sleep habits. Improving your sleep hygiene, therefore, is about improving your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night by employing specific behavioural and environmental interventions.
Here are five key tips you can take advantage of today to increase your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep:
Moderate-to-vigorous exercise every day can help to improve your sleep quality by increasing your energy level during the day and level of fatigue or tiredness at night. Increasing your energy level during the day prevents the desire for an extended daytime nap, which affects your ability to fall asleep, for obvious reasons.
Regular exercise can also help to improve strength, flexibility and musculoskeletal balance which can alleviate various aches and pains that interfere with sleep. Of course, if you have significant or chronic pain, or any other pre-existing condition, you should speak with a Physiotherapist or other health professional before introducing routine exercises into your life. A Physiotherapist can identify the right exercises and provide any necessary treatment to help address and improve musculoskeletal conditions.
Your bedroom environment is a critical factor in your sleep hygiene. An environment that is conducive to falling asleep can help to ensure a better quantity and quality of sleep each night. To make your bedroom more sleep friendly, focus on creating a relaxing ambiance by prioritizing both visual design and practical setup. This includes lighting, sound, and smell. Of course, choosing the right mattress and pillows for good sleep is also very important. It should suit your body weight and be comfortable for you, so that you can stretch and move easily during sleep.
Setting a consistent time for going to sleep and for waking up is essential, regardless of whether it’s a weekday or weekend. Following a regular routine or schedule helps to train your mind and body by reinforcing your sleep cycle. This makes it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep each night. Make sure that your new routine allows for between seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and be consistent. Establishing a routine may be difficult at first, but that’s perfectly normal. Just stick with it and give yourself time to adjust.
As with a consistent sleep schedule, a regular bedtime routine helps to train your mind and body and reinforces your sleep cycle. It should include a standard set of calming activities and should be performed 30 to 60 minutes before bed. This routine will help you connect with your natural circadian rhythms, release the day’s stresses, and help you relax. Of course, even before getting into your routine, you’ll want to avoid having a heavy meal before bed as it can lead to indigestion or acid reflux which makes it hard to fall asleep. You may also want to ensure that your diet includes foods to help you sleep, such as kiwi, tart cherries, malted milk, fatty fish, nuts, and rice.
Here’s an example of a possible bedtime routine:
Checking emails and social media or responding to notifications or messages at night is very tempting. However, studies have shown that electronic back-lit devices like mobile phones, tablets, computers, and even e-readers emit short-wavelength enriched light. This short-wavelength enriched light is also known as blue light. It suppresses the natural production of melatonin which results in increased alertness. Melatonin is a hormone. It’s made by the pineal gland and controls your sleep/wake cycle. Turn your notifications off and leave your devices alone until you wake up. This will prevent your sleep from being interrupted.
Answer: Sleep is an essential part of maintaining our physical and mental health. It’s the time when the body repairs itself and the mind recharges. Key benefits of sleep include maintaining the immune system, a stable weight, regular brain functions and emotional stability. All of this impacts performance at school, work or during recreational activities. It also impacts interactions with others and maintaining relationships.
Answer: Sleep impacts every system in your body and so is essential for maintaining your physical health. A chronic lack of sleep weakens your immune system which can leave you more susceptible to viruses and disease. It can contribute to increased inflammation which has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. It can also affect your appetite and blood pressure which can lead to weight gain and heart disease.
Answer: During sleep, your mind processes memories, emotions and new information. A lack of sleep can leave you feeling irritable and short-tempered. It can impact your ability to remember and learn new information. It can also make you more susceptible to stress and further sleep problems, such as insomnia. This is because a lack of sleep results in an increased production of cortisol. Chronic sleep deprivation is also linked to increased anxiety and severe depression.
Sleep hygiene refers to a set of practices that affect the quantity and quantity of sleep you experience at night. Improving your sleep hygiene can make a significant difference to your physical and mental health. This can affect your quality of life. However, each of us is unique. So, improving your sleep hygiene may require testing out various changes to find what works best for you. You don’t have to change everything at once but do try to be consistent. Given how important sleep is to our overall well being, improving your sleep hygiene is definitely worth the commitment.
If you’re struggling with getting a good night’s sleep, contact us today and let us show you why, at Physiomed, Healthier Starts Here.
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