World Sleep Day is an internationally recognized awareness event bringing researchers, health professionals, and the public together to recognize sleep and its important impact on our health.
We all know the challenges of getting good sleep and rest in today's ‘always on’ world. Whether you’re working from home or office, or have kids and family to attend to - getting enough sleep can seem like an ongoing effort. Long days, life and societal stresses, health concerns, can all lead to unhealthy disruptions to our sleep and sleep patterns.
Good quality, restorative sleep is essential for day-to-day functioning, and too little sleep over too long a period can lead to physical and cognitive impairment and longer-term health concerns. Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep is known to have a significant negative impact on our health in the long and short term. Next day effects of poor quality sleep include a negative impact on our attention span, memory recall, and learning. Longer-term effects are being studied, but poor quality sleep or sleep deprivation has been associated with significant health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, weakened immune systems, poor mental health, and even some cancers.
The positive news is that some studies suggest that sleep quality rather than quantity has a greater impact on quality of life and daytime functioning. And sleep health is best understood in the context of each individual’s, social, work, and environmental demands, i.e., that good sleep health may not look the same in every situation or every individual.
Keys to a Good Nights Rest
Maintain a regular sleep schedule whenever possible. Instead of sleeping in on weekends to compensate for lost sleep, try going to bed an hour or two earlier at night and keeping this schedule all week long.
Use your bed only for sleeping. This will help train your body to fall asleep quickly when you tuck in for the night.
Keep your room dark.
Don’t exercise too close to bedtime. The resulting endorphin release will energize you and keep you awake.
Use “white noise” such as a fan to dampen outside noise.
Lower the thermostat. Studies show that a cooler temperature helps create more restful sleep. Go as low as you can while still remaining comfortable.
Avoid caffeine in the evening. Half the caffeine you consume will still be in your body six hours later.
Don’t use alcohol to excess. Having a few drinks may help you go to sleep, but it will also disrupt your sleep cycle, leaving you tired in the morning.
Invest in a good mattress. Mattresses stop offering the right amount of support after about ten years.
Shut out negativity. If television news causes you stress and worry, then skip that late newscast and do something that relaxes you instead.
Even if our circumstances mean we cannot follow every guideline for healthy sleep, each strategy we can implement may make a positive difference in our ability to get better rest so we stay healthy and safe.
Here are some additional resources for you to check out:
Sleep on it Canada is an awareness campaign for the general public to help demystify sleep, offer solutions to deal with sleep disorders, and make healthy sleep a public health priority. The website contains educational articles, information on sleep disorders, links to support groups, online programs, and sleep tools to help you improve your sleep. https://sleeponitcanada.ca/
The Insomnia Coach app is a free, easy-to-use mobile application created for Veterans, service members, and civilians to help manage insomnia symptoms and develop healthy sleep habits. The app is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)–an evidence-based treatment–and scientific research about how people can change behaviours and thoughts to help improve their sleep.
CNN has created a wellness series and newsletters on issues of health and wellbeing. Check out their page on sleep and sign up for their Sleep, But Better emails newsletter.
The Canadian Sleep Society has a number of resources including a list of podcasts on sleep - an easy way to learn more throughout your day.