The body requires sleep for both physical and mental health. Some of the benefits of sleep include, higher pain threshold, increased immunity, better memory and mood and weight loss. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep each night for adults between 18 to 64. In 2011, it was reported that 61 percent of Canadian adults get fewer than 8 hours of sleep each night, 30 percent of which get fewer than 6 hours a night. If you fall into that group, here are some tips to help you get some good shut eye.
Admit the importance of sleep. Our culture has become one that views the need for sleep as weakness. But our bodies need sleep, in fact we are genetically, designed to spend 1/3 our life asleep. Create a sleeping ritual to support your body’s natural rhythms. Try to go to sleep and get up the same time everyday and avoid too much sleeping in on weekends or nights you’ve stayed up late. Sticking to a consistent sleep-wake schedule helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. It can be tempting to sleep in on weekends, but even a couple hours difference in wake time disrupts your internal clock. If you need to make up for a late night, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This strategy allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm, which often backfires in insomnia and throws you off for days.
Keep a worry journal. Worry, stress and anxiety keep so many of us up at night. Keep a journal on your nightstand to jot down what is worrying you and possible strategies to deal with them. Then close the journal, turn out the light and go back to sleep. Your worries will be there in the morning. If journals don’t work for you, try relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.
Take the time to wind down. Working right up until bedtime does not give your body an opportunity to calm down. Take at least an hour before bed to transition from work mode to home mode. That may include taking a bath, reading a book, do something that will help you relax. Make sure to avoid any bright screens within 2 hours of your bed time. So limit the tablet, laptop and TV before heading to bed.
Turn down the temperature. Your body needs to cool down in order to fall asleep. Try using a fan, opening a window or turn up the AC. Getting cozy under blankets can also have a soothing and nurturing effect to help with sleep.
Incorporate a high intensity workout at the right time. Intense exercise can help the body achieve restorative sleep, when done at the right time. Physical tiredness is essential to getting a good night’s sleep. Workouts should be done in the morning or afternoon. Try to finish exercising at least 3 hours before your bedtime.
Match your pillows to your sleep position. Pillows can be a great sleep aid. For example, if you like to sleep on your back, use a pillow to support your knees. Keeping your knees supported and slightly bent helps take stress off your lower back. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees. Keeping your knees slightly apart maintains better alignment with the hips, and helps keep the lower back from twisting, which is easier on the spinal discs, joints, and soft tissues.
Block out distractions. Both background noise and light can cause distractions and prevent deep sleep. White noise is restful and keeps down background noise. An air cleaner or a fan can be useful in creating consistent soft background noise. The darker the room the better you will sleep. Use heavy curtains or shades to block out light from windows. A sleep mask may also be an option. Make sure any electronics that emit light are turned off.