Deep, uninterrupted sleep is one of the main components of a healthy lifestyle. Yet, many Canadians, children, and adults struggle to fall and stay asleep, robbing themselves of the restorative effects sleep affords. Several factors can result in a sleep deficit, including:
Body: your pre-sleep workout, that late police show or a post-dinner cup of coffee might be leaving you overstimulated at bedtime.
Mind: an important business decision, a child’s welfare or an upcoming excitement might be causing you anxiety.
Outside factors: that barking dog next door, passing traffic or southern Alberta winds can prevent or interrupt sleep.
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A Better Night's Sleep
The good news is you can take steps to increase your chances of enjoying a good night’s sleep.
Caffeine: if it can jog you awake in the morning, coffee can do exactly the same in the evening. Restrict your coffee intake to two cups a day, and avoid any after lunch.
Nicotine: like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant and can actually worsen your sleep. If you’re in the process of quitting smoking, the withdrawal process can also affect sleep patterns. Once your body adjusts, you will fall asleep faster and wake less often.
Alcohol: yes, it’s a depressant that can help you fall asleep. However, it also interrupts sleep. Avoid alcohol within four to six hours of bedtime.
Food: heavy meals or foods that upset your stomach can cause sleep problems. However, some people find a light snack at bedtime helps them fall asleep.
Exercise: regular exercise is a positive lifestyle routine, which can help you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly. The key is to end your exercise sessions at least six hours before bedtime to avoid overstimulation.
Electronic devices: laptops, alarm clocks and cellphone screens can all interfere with your body’s sleep cues. Turn off these devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and move them away from your bedside.
And a few more tips to help you sleep soundly:
- Arise at the same time seven days a week, even on vacation.
- Avoid naps; if you must, restrict them to 30 minutes between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
- Develop a regular schedule for meals, medications, chores and other activities to help your body clock run smoothly.
- Discover relaxing pre-bedtime rituals, such as taking a warm bath, enjoying a light snack or reading for a few minutes.
- Designate a specific time during the day to write down your worries. You’ll get them out of your system, rather than dwelling on them at bedtime
- Develop a regular sleep schedule, but don’t go to bed until you feel sleepy. If you are unable to fall or stay asleep within 20 minutes, get up. Engage in a quiet activity until you feel tired.