Strategies for getting a better night’s sleep

Did you know that 30 to 40 per cent of adults report not being able to get a good night’s sleep? Also, more people have reported worse sleep over the past few months due to COVID-19. Here are a number of strategies that may improve your sleep quality. Be sure to discuss any new or persistent sleep difficulties with your health care provider to rule out medical or medication issues that may be affecting your sleep. 

Bedroom Environment
Use your bedroom only for sleeping. Help your brain associate the bedroom with sleep by removing electronic devices such as a cell phone, tablet, computer and television. Heavy curtains or blinds help to block outside light. Listening to white or brown noise, or using earplugs may help you cope with noise. Keep the bedroom temperature cool. Blankets and pajamas should be comfortable. 

When we have a change in daytime routine, our sleep schedule can be affected too. Scheduling meal times, time to be physically active and relaxation time throughout the day helps with your bedtime routine. Whenever possible, go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep, including on weekends and vacation days. Planning “down time” before bed is key to help prepare yourself for sleep: turn off electronics at least an hour before bed, put away work, dim household lights, reduce noise, or do quiet activities. 

Stress and worry 
Adding a relaxing activity, like a short meditation or progressive muscle relaxation to your daytime and bedtime routines can help calm the body and mind, which can help with sleep. Whenever possible, use strategies for reducing stress throughout the day. Reaching out to a friend, a family member or a professional to discuss your stress can be helpful. 

Physical activity
You are more likely to have a good night’s sleep if you are physically tired. Include physical activity in your day to promote sleep and overall good health. Scheduling physical activities throughout the day, and not too close to bedtime, can be beneficial. Remember, if you are new to physical activity, it is recommended you check with your health care provider before beginning. 

Waking in the middle of the night
It’s very common to wake at night, so it’s important that we be compassionate with ourselves. By getting angry or focusing on our worries can result in waking ourselves up even more. One tip is to avoid watching the clock. This can create more stress and worry. If you are awake after 20 minutes of lying in bed, get out of bed and do something relaxing, such as reading a book. Return to bed when you are sleepy. You will probably get back to sleep easier and sleep more deeply than if you had stayed in bed tossing and turning. 

Caffeine is a stimulant and can affect your ability to go to sleep. If you are having problems falling asleep, you may want to monitor your caffeine intake. Switching to decaffeinated tea and coffee after lunchtime may help with nighttime sleep. Alcohol before bed may help to relax you to fall asleep but it is known to interrupt sleep, so it may be the culprit for waking up in the middle of the night. Tobacco is also a stimulant and may make it difficult to fall asleep or can wake you up during your sleep cycle due to experiencing withdrawal over the course of the night. Research and evidence with respect cannabis use and its impact on sleep is still unknown. If you think it may be impacting your sleep, please discuss this with your health care provider.

Changing your sleep routine
Start small by changing a couple of things in your sleep routine to see how it works. People often have to change more than one thing about their sleep routine before they notice changes in their overall sleep. Change over a long period is likely to lead to a better night’s sleep. It is important to stick with a change for at least two weeks before deciding if it is helping. When it doubt, ask your health care provider. Sleep is important to your health!

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