Improving Your Sleep
“Wow, I feel great and so well rested”. If you are anything like me and the ⅓ of Canadians who don’t get a high-quality restful sleep, this is a phrase that you likely haven’t said in a very long time. Sleep is a natural break for our bodies and plays a critical role in our overall health and wellbeing. Without high quality sleep, our ability to regulate our emotions, tolerate stress, and make sound decisions, is greatly inhibited.
So why don’t we get enough sleep? We all recognize that we should, and it makes us feel better when we do. Easy problem to solved, inform the 33% of Canadians and we will be much happier and less stressed if we simply tell ourselves to get a better sleep….or maybe not.
Unfortunately, it is not that easy. More than half Canadian people report problems falling asleep, and this number is even higher when we start looking at individual demographics or people dealing with high levels of stress. When we become stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed, our nervous system can be activated leaving us in an “excited” state. In other words, our body can become stimulated to prepare for physical survival, which is not very conducive to sleep. Another experience that many people have is the never-ending spiral of thoughts when it is time for sleep. Whether this is them replaying the day, fixating on anxious thoughts about what ‘could’ have happened, or the never ending to do list that keeps you tossing and turning, all of this keep your mind working and awake.
No matter your circumstances, here are some helpful tips to improve your sleep. A good night’s sleep generally starts with good Sleep Hygiene. Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe how you set yourself up for sleep and your routine for going to sleep each night. Here are some factors to consider for good sleep hygiene:
- Go to sleep in a room that is pitch black
- Have your room at a comfortable temperature (usually on the cooler side)
- Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (this helps your body get into a rhythm where it anticipates sleep and anticipates when to wake up)
- Encompassing exercise in your day can lead to more restful sleeps
- Have a consistent routine that allows your body and nervous system to come to a calm (i.e., having a bath, cup of tea, evening stretching or yoga, etc.)
- Listen to sleep stories, sleep meditation or Yoga Nidra (remember to turn off auto play) to help calm your busy mind and whirling thoughts (rather than watching a show or a movie to fall asleep)
Things to avoid for good sleep hygiene:
- Avoid napping when possible, and if you have to nap ensure your nap ends before 3pm so it does not impact your night sleep
- Avoid doing multiple things in your bed, keep the activities that take place in your bed to sleep and sex
- Avoid screen time an hour before bed (screens can be interpreted by our brain as sunlight and slow the natural production of the sleepy hormone called melatonin)
When it comes to addressing mental wellbeing, having a consistent, restful sleep, is an important start. With good sleep, our emotions can feel less intense, and we can start building the capacity to work through the many challenges in our lives.
Statistical Reference: Statistics Canada (2020). Sleeping behaviours among Canadian adults: Findings from the 2020 Canadian Community Health Survey Healthy Living Rapid Response Module. Retrieved from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/82-003-x/2022003/article/00001-eng.pdf?st=xsXmPgXL
Celeste Rodrigues-Forbes MSW, RSW is experienced in the areas of anxiety and trauma, plus many more. For more information on Celeste and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.