Warning: this article will put you to sleep.
Not getting enough sleep? Join the club. An estimated 60% of Canadians come up short every night, a deficit that is linked to depression, anxiety, unsafe driving and long-term health problems like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
The links are clear, but if you’re one of the many who clock 6.9 hours or less, the immediate and obvious impact – daily exhaustion – is probably enough to have you craving change.
Attempting to get a decent amount of shuteye but still falling short? Start implementing these tips from naturopathic doctor Leslie Solomonian.
Create a routine
Regular sleep and wake times are the cornerstones of healthy sleep habits. Think of your day as a dance: your body’s natural rhythms flow best when guided by a predictable beat. Dr. Solomonian recommends beginning your bedtime routine thirty-to-sixty minutes before you intend to sleep.
Turn off all electronic devices that emit light, particularly, says Dr. Solomonian, your television, phone, computer and tablet, since their bright screens can interfere with your brain’s melatonin production.
Set your goals aside
Going to sleep is a necessary pause, but many of us find it hard to stop when our responsibilities never do. Dr. Solomonian recommends journaling before bedtime to acknowledge your daily concerns and give yourself permission to rest. “It’s a way of saying to your brain, ‘This is important, we will address this, but we don’t have to do it right now,’” she says. You needn’t only focus on your worries, either. Keeping a gratitude journal or a list of blessings can end the day on a positive note.
Whether it’s gentle yoga, meditation, listening to soothing music or a relaxation script, find a method that works for you. Google and YouTube have free resources to suit a variety of tastes. Solomonian also offers this progressive muscle relaxation to prime the body for rest: “Starting with the toes, tighten up muscles and then relax them, moving your way up the body,” she says.
Practice good sleep hygiene
“Making sure the bed is comfortable, the room is a good temperature, making sure the pillow is comfortable, the mattress is comfortable – all of those things need to be in place,” says Solomonian.
Cut the caffeine
In its 10 commandments of sleep hygiene the World Association of Sleep Medicine recommends avoiding caffeine – including coffee, tea, pop and chocolate – six hours before bed, and cutting out alcohol and heavy, sugary and spicy foods four hours before sleep. A light snack before bed is fine, as long as it doesn’t include those ingredients.
Enjoy a hot cuppa
Valerian, passionflower, skullcap, hops and chamomile are all safe and effective herbs that can be taken in teas to promote sleepiness, says Dr. Solomonian, although you’ll want to limit intake if waking to urinate is already an issue. The efficacy of these herbs varies from person to person; consult a naturopath for an individualized brew.