Helpful tips on how to streamline your sleep routine.

13 12 sleeping tips stress relief

Sleep deprivation occurs when we regularly fail to get enough sleep. Although every person’s needs vary, most adults require seven to eight hours to wake up feeling refreshed and to function efficiently all day. However, six out of 10 Canadians enjoy less than this. “Too often, not getting enough sleep is seen as a badge of honour in our society, but there is nothing noble about not getting the sleep our bodies need,” warns Dr. Charles Samuels M.D., CCFP, DABSM medical director of the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance.

Too much stress!

Stress, which is a part of our daily lives, causes major sleep loss. For many of us, today’s non-stop pace pushes us to work harder, put in more hours, fit in more activities and stay up later—all achieved by sacrificing sleep. For women this is especially relevant. According to research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, women with highly stressful jobs have a nearly 40 per cent increased risk of heart disease compared with less-stressed colleagues.

What’s the damage?

The lack of sound and adequate sleep each night affects our ability to learn, focus and stay alert. Dr. Rachel Morehouse medical director of the Atlantic Health Sciences Sleep Centre in Saint John, N.B. highlights how this impacts our health in many ways. She says that when we are sleep-deprived our metabolism cannot process food properly. In addition, a weakening of the immune system occurs, which, in turn, reduces the body’s resistance to general infections, colds and viruses and, in some cases, also leads to depression. Sleep deprivation is also linked to high blood pressure.

But sleepless nights don’t just impact the inside of our bodies. If we continue racing through our lives with poor sleep habits, we will also start to look worse. That’s because the human growth hormone (HGH) that keeps us looking younger is produced during sleep. So, cutting into our sleep time equals reduced hormonal activity, which results in less muscle fat, a slower metabolism and sagging skin. Overall, when it comes to beauty sleep, we need to get the required amount to feel healthy and good, which can vary from person to person.

If any of the above applies to you, then brace yourself; help is here. Follow these tips for better sleep.

1. Set a regular bedtime.

Getting in sync with our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle—your circadian rhythm—is one of the most important strategies to achieve restful sleep. Stay consistent by going to bed and rising at the same time each day. Resist the temptation to stay up later on weekends and maintain a regular wake-up time. If you have to change your bedtime, do so in small increments, say 15 minutes earlier or later, to let the circadian rhythm adjust itself. Finally, resist after-dinner drowsiness and don’t nap. Get up and start doing something active if you begin feeling sleepy.

2. Enjoy the daylight.

The amount of exposure we have to daylight each day plays a part in sleeping well. Melatonin, a naturally occurring sleep hormone controlled by light exposure, helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. By spending more time outside during daylight hours we sleep better. At the office, or if you are typically indoors, take breaks to spend time outside, so you get appropriate exposure.

3. Avoid stimulants in the evening.

Large amounts of caffeine may cause sleep complications for up to 10 hours after consumption, so consider cutting out caffeine after lunch. Do not eat a big meal in the evening and avoid rich, heavy foods within two hours of bedtime. Finally, resist the temptation to have an alcoholic drink and stop smoking during the evening, as alcohol and nicotine disrupt our sleep.

4. Create a relaxation routine before bed.

Unwinding before bed allows your body to prepare itself for rest. Try including some light reading of either a book or a magazine by a lamp with a low-wattage bulb or listening to an audio book and/or soft, dreamy music. But, do not read from a backlit device, such as an iPad. Instead, use candlelight; this triggers the release of melatonin. Finally, create a restful environment. When washing bed linen, pour in a little pure rose water to create a relaxing fragrance, ban all electronic noise, pull the curtains closed to darken the room and block outside noise. Keep the room cool at around 20 to 23 degrees Celsius.                                                                                                           

5. Use a light box.

If you can’t get outside during the day, consider using a light box. First introduced during the 80s, light boxes mimic natural light. By sitting or working near it, researchers say the light therapeutically lifts your mood, causing relaxation. Either purchase one over-the-counter or talk to your doctor, who may prescribe a specific one.

Still tired upon waking? Here are three possible culprits.

Overstressed mind and body.

Going to bed without ridding your body of stress causes tossing and turning. Unwind by taking a hot bath or shower before bed with our favourite dreamy bath and shower goods formulated for relaxation. Try 1. L’Occitane Lavender Foaming Bath ($29 for 500 ml, at L’Occitane boutiques and loccitane.ca) with a relaxing aroma of lavender; 2. the Lush Dreamtime Bath Melt ($6.25, at Lush locations), which releases a soothing aroma of jasmine, lavender, chamomile and sandalwood when dropped into bath water; or 3. Molton Brown Ylang-Ylang Body Wash ($30US for 300 ml, at moltonbrown.com), a luxurious body wash that uses plant extracts traditionally used to restore harmony and balance.

13 12 sleeping tips stress relief 2

Underactive thyroid.

A common condition among women, an underactive thyroid gland means you lack the hormone thyroxine, which induces tiredness and can result in weight gain. A simple blood test by your doctor can diagnose this condition.

Gluten allergy.

An adverse reaction to gluten found in bread, cakes and some cereals is the most common cause for celiac disease. This disease characterized by a gluten intolerance results in restless, unsatisfying sleep, so try adopting a gluten-free diet.