Arguments and conversations about how tired we are, and how little sleep we get, are part of our everyday lives – it’s like some kind of weird badge of honour. But, many of our bad habits (scrolling through our phones or iPads in bed anyone?) are actually the reason we can’t get a healthy night of sleep.
Doctors and sleep experts have discovered the habits we’re prone to that interfere with getting a good night’s sleep, so today, we’re sharing their top five sleep tips to getting a better night’s sleep.
Get your exercising done with at least three hours between finishing up and hitting the sack
While exercise is crucial for a healthy lifestyle and good sleep habits, working out before bed is a bad idea. Whether it’s a 9:00pm jaunt to the gym, an 11:00pm hockey game, or an 8:00pm Zumba class, exercising before bed amps up your adrenaline, your heart rate, and your core body temperature – all of which stimulate the body and keep it alert.
The kind of euphoria we earn from exercising (even when we’re sweaty, tired, and out of breath) can make relaxing enough to sleep a major challenge, especially since our core body temperature needs to lower for sleep. If the only time you can schedule exercise is in the evenings, try to finish up at least three hours before your bedtime, do cool down stretches, take a cold shower, and try meditating or reading before bed.
Stay away from sleeping pills
If you’re wide awake at bedtime, lying in bed for hours before sleep finally comes, you might turn to sleeping pills to help you get some shut-eye. However, too many people are overusing sleeping pills, which are designed for short-term use only and, if used too often, cause dependency and intolerance.
If insomnia is coming at you out of nowhere, chances are, medications aren’t going to help, you may have a deeper issue (like sleep apnea), so it warrants a visit to the doctor. But if you’re only temporarily having trouble from shift work or jet lag, try taking melatonin or using essential oils like lavender to help you get to sleep.
Stick to herbal teas and stay away from caffeine (chocolate too!) after lunchtime
We all know that caffeine makes us alert, but because so many of us consume it regularly, we often dismiss its impact on our sleep. Since caffeine stays in our bodies a long time (5-6 hours), we need to be careful about when we’re consuming it. Caffeine counteracts the chemicals in our brain that make us sleepy, so consuming caffeine products before lunch is fine, but you should avoid it after lunch (especially if you’re having trouble sleeping).
So, if you’re meeting a friend at Starbucks for a visit after dinner, stay away from caffeine: coffee, tea, colas, energy drinks, and chocolate! Plus, caffeine doesn’t just make it hard to fall asleep, but it interferes with your quality of sleep.
Sleep in the nude
From babies to adults, we’re trained to wear pajamas to sleep: sleep shirts, footie pajamas, flannel PJs, or boxers. However, sleeping in the nude isn’t just easier and cheaper, it’s also good for your health.
From promoting the release of oxytocin (that lovey, dovey, happy, sleepy neurotransmitter we get from skin-to-skin contact) to allowing your skin to breathe, from regulating your cortisol levels (which can cause anxiety and food cravings) to balancing your melatonin, sleeping naked keeps you cool, comfortable, and primed for optimum sleep.
Journal before bed
Do you lie in bed at night, your mind racing through all your worries and woes, full of anxious anticipation for what’s coming tomorrow?
If you struggle to stop your mind from circling and spiraling through what-ifs and “oh-no's,” then journaling before bed can help you “write off” your sleep problems. Studies show that journaling through your problems before bed can reduce your anxiety, increasing the quality and quantity of your sleep. If writing down your woes just amps you up further, try keeping a gratitude journal where you write about what you’re thankful for and what’s good in your life. Focusing on positive events can redirect your thoughts and help ease your mind before bed – think of it as a meditative practice.
Healthy sleep is a vital part of self-care and wellness, but if you’re trying everything and still not sleeping well or enough, you might be suffering from sleep apnea. Take our sleep quiz to measure your risk and learn more.
*Photo Credit: Health Staff Recruitment