Getting better sleep
Why it’s important for adults
by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante
The start of Daylight Savings Time (clock forward) for Manitobans was on March 13th and will end on November 6, 2022 (clock backward). It was very interesting to me how many people mentioned being tired and sleepy for about one week afterwards. For myself, I took a short nap in the evening twice that week, and I hardly ever need a nap.
Continuing to use Daylight Savings Time in Canada is a controversial topic, and not all the provinces and territories use it. But whatever your opinion is, it highlights the importance of getting enough sleep in order to reach optimal physical and mental wellness.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. However, one in every four adults do not get enough hours of sleep. Many people report that they have trouble falling or staying asleep, do not find their sleep refreshing, or have difficulty staying awake during the waking hours. Long term sleep deficiency can lead to chronic stress and poor mental health, which is why we should get the recommended hours of sleep each and every night.
According to the Centre of Clinical Interventions, there are many steps that you can take to improve sleep hygiene. Taking these steps will improve the way you feel, physically and mentally.
1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including on weekends and vacation days. This regular rhythm will make you feel better.
2. Only go to bed when you actually feel tired or sleepy.
3. If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something quiet and boring until you feel sleepy, then return to bed and try again. For example, sit quietly on the couch with the lights off. Avoid doing anything that is too stimulating or interesting and do not go on your phone, tablet, or turn on the TV because the light can wake you up even more.
4. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at least four to six hours before bedtime because these substances can interfere with the ability to fall asleep or could interfere with the quality of sleep.
5. Try not to use your bed for anything other than sleeping and sex. If you use your bed as a place to watch TV, eat, read, work on your laptop, pay bills, and other activities, your body and mind will have a hard time associating bed with sleep.
6. Avoid taking naps during the day to make sure that you are tired at bedtime. If you can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure it is for less than one hour and before 3:00 p.m.
7. Develop a sleep routine. Some people find it relaxing to have a bath, read or meditate prior to going to bed. Keep a consistent pattern every night.
8. Do not watch the clock. Many people will frequently check the time if they cannot go to sleep not realizing that light can stimulate the senses and keep you awake. Also, this behaviour reinforces negative thoughts such as “I’ll never get to sleep” or “I can’t believe I’m still awake, this is terrible.”
9. Keep a sleep diary. This worksheet can be a useful way of making sure you have the right facts about your sleep, rather than making assumptions. Because a diary involves watching the clock (see point 8) it is a good idea to only use it for two weeks to get an idea of what is going on. Then in two months, compare and see how you are progressing.
10. Exercise. Regular exercise is a great practice for many reasons, including better sleep. Try not to do heavy exercise in the four hours before bedtime other than stretching and light yoga.
11. Have a healthy, balanced diet. Some people find that a very empty stomach at bedtime is distracting, so it can be useful to have a light snack, but a heavy meal soon before bed can also interrupt sleep.
12. Keep the room comfortable, meaning that your sleep environment is quiet and cool in temperature. Black out curtains or an eye mask can block out morning light, while earplugs can help with noise.
13. Keep your daytime routine the same. Wake up at the planned time, even if sleep was bad the night before. Carry out all daytime activities as you had planned and do not avoid them because you feel tired. This can reinforce sleep disturbance.
Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.