Sportswave.ca

Sleep Hygiene Tips

The following signs would indicate you’ve been depriving yourself of sleep: You hit the snooze button more than twice regularly; 

You’ve stayed in bed for too long, thus rendering every second critical to making school or work on time; 

You don’t have time for breakfast; Nothing, repeat nothing is more important than coffee, which you take with you on the fly; 

You flew out the door without your lunch, homework, briefcase, etc.; Finally, your makeup and morning hair will have to wait ‘til you get there, which is why they invented hats.

According to Public Health Canada, seven to nine hours of sleep is recommended for ages 18-64 while ages 65-plus is seven to eight hours.

Dr. Lucas MacMillan, naturopathic physician from North Vancouver, B.C. shared his knowledge on sleep hygiene in our email Q&A:

Q: What is sleep hygiene?

A: Sleep hygiene includes all of the habits and events that relate to your sleep. 

Our body’s habits are incredibly important for us to develop a rhythm and consistently feel our best – unfortunately this is a big part of what has been disrupted by COVID-19. 

Many of us have experienced changes in our bedtime, waking time, pre-sleep practices, stress levels, and waking routines.

These all affect our ability to sleep at night and change the sleep quantity (hours of sleep), sleep quality (efficiency of sleep) or both.

Q: How important is sleep?

A: Sleep affects every system in our body. It helps to control blood pressure, normalize blood sugars, decrease cravings and weight gain, increase motivation and energy, rebuild muscle and damaged tissues, maintain hormone balance, stabilize and improve mood, and more. 

If these benefits were put into pill format, this would be the absolute number one seller. Take a moment to think about that. 

If you’re looking for something to invest in, maintain and improve, start with sleep.

Q: What tips can help to get the most out of your sleep?

A: Where to start…Our body loves rhythm and routine. Going to bed around the same time most nights, and awakening around the same time is ideal. 

As adults, we like to think that routine isn’t important for us, but we could learn a lot from our children on this one. 

If a child doesn’t sleep well, she may be moody, less motivated, more likely to get sick, be less social, etc. As adults we are not immune to these effects; we just don’t have someone paying attention to the consequences for us, so we often don’t even notice.

Avoid stimulating activities one hour before bed, as anything that raises heart rate within that hour is likely to disrupt sleep – note that sexual activity is an exception here. 

Examples include stimulating movies and TV shows, especially anything scary or action-filled. 

Many people don’t realize that this also includes inspirational content as these can stimulate brain activity and planning for the future, which directly opposes the wind-down we need. Also, books can be as bad or worse, than TV. 

The content and your reaction to it are most important.

Blue light exposure causes a breakdown in melatonin and inhibits our ability to make melatonin for some time after exposure. This isn’t good as melatonin is our primary sleep hormone. 

If you must view screens before bed, I strongly recommend a blue light blocking setting or app, and be sure to max out the blue light settings. 

Consider some blue light blocking glasses if not. I personally prefer settings that automatically change the colour setting on my devices one hour before bed, so my brain consistently receives a signal stating it’s almost bedtime via the colour change of the screens.

Our body needs to drop nearly a full degree Celsius to sleep effectively, so a cool room and/or damp skin from a pre-bed bath or shower can help.

The amount of drinking in an hour or two before bed is important, especially if you wake up to urinate at night. 

For some people, the amount of water intake before bed will decide whether they sleep through the night or not, and it’s a simple problem to fix once identified. 

Also note that caffeine is possibly the number one contributor to periodic insomnia, especially if consumed after 2-4 pm, or even earlier if you possess genes that slow caffeine breakdown in your body. 

Note that caffeine is found in black tea, green tea, coffee, and chocolate.

Alcohol can help us fall asleep faster but generally leads to a net loss of sleep by decreasing sleep quality, and often decreasing sleep length. 

Sleep is a very active brain and body process, and alcohol clearly disrupts the brainwaves and body activities that are meant to happen during this time. If you must have drinks in the evening, earlier is likely better.

Q: What technology is available to help?

A: I love this topic, as I believe sleep monitors are a massively underappreciated topic. Many people own an Apple watch, 

Fitbit or other potential sleep monitor and have never experimented with these technologies. 

They can help to easily monitor average hours of sleep per night (including weekly sleep deficit), general sleep quality, changes in heart rate variability and resting heart rate, and a large number of other factors that help assess your sleep effectiveness, and help to track whether you are trending in a positive or negative direction. 

The first step with offering any effective treatment is finding the right diagnosis, and these trackers can make this much easier while holding us accountable to our actions; they show in real-time the effects of things like alcohol, caffeine, and stimulating books on our sleep quantity and quality. 

I would recommend using devices in airplane mode or equivalent to minimize exposure to unnecessary frequencies, as 8-hour exposures are significant.

Our weekly Fitness Friday feature is submitted by Christine Blanchette whom you can follow on Twitter or Youtube.

Stay Safe and enjoy the long weekend.