Trouble falling asleep? Feel unrefreshed first thing in the morning? Insomnia is common and impacts anywhere from 6-48% of Canadians. Good quality of sleep is essential for optimal physical and mental functioning. Sleep impacts mood, cardiovascular health, metabolism, weight, learning, memory, immune function, and much more!
We have an internal biological clock (aka “circadian rhythm”) that tell our body when it’s time to sleep and awake. When this rhythm falls out of sync, it can cause issues with falling asleep or staying asleep.
One of the most important and overlooked factors for good quality sleep is your sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene is a set of rituals done regularly, in the hour leading up to bed. This lets your body know it’s time for sleep. It’s important to remember that our circadian rhythm is a RHYTHM, which means we need routine. Each and every night.
Tips for optimizing your sleep hygiene:
- Get blackout curtains. Our circadian rhythm is regulated by light. Melatonin, a hormone that is responsible for sleep initiation, is released in response to darkness. Even small amounts of light (i.e. street lights) can disrupt melatonin production, impacting your sleep. Blackout curtains ensure an optimally dark room. If this isn’t possible, the next best option is blackout sleep eye masks. Additionally, remove your phone and alarm clock from your bedroom. Or, place them at the foot of the bed, on the floor to avoid any light exposure.
- Minimize blue light exposure. Limit blue light exposure throughout the day and no screen time 1 hour before bed (TV, computer, phones). There are numerous blue light blocking glasses (blocks 100%) and blue light filtering (blocks a portion) lenses coming to the markets and may be a suitable add-on for those spending a good deal of time behind a screen, during the day. Studies have shown benefits in preventing the harmful effects of blue light exposure on your circadian rhythm. Screen apps that change the hue of your screen are also great options (i.e. F.lux or Night shift) for during the day.
- Dim the lights in the evening. The earlier the better, to mimic the natural light patterns.
- ReducE stimulating activities before bed. TV shows, stressful books, intensive exercise should be limited in the evening. Stimulating activities sends the wrong information to the brain and prevents your body from winding down. (Note: Exercise is fantastic and great for regulating your circadian rhythm and best done in the morning or afternoon).
- Develop a pre-betime ritual. Start one hour before bed. Find something that helps you relax, and stick to it. This may include guided meditation, a warm bath, herbal tea and/or aromatherapy.
- Bedroom is for sleeping and sex only. All other activities should be outside of the bedroom. Activities such as watching TV, eating, reading, etc., should be done anywhere but the bedroom.
- Watch what you eat and when you eat it. Sugary desserts before bed can impact your blood sugar levels. Additionally, heavy meals immediately before bed can also impact sleep. Time your dinner a few hours before bed.
- Is your sleeping buddy a restless sleeper? Do they toss and turn? Do you have your four-legged friends in bed with you? If this is true, and distracting your sleep, things may need to change. Your sleeping buddy may need to get checked out for why their sleep is restless.
- Naps. If you nap, nap earlier in the day and for no more than 30 minutes.
- Routine. Sleep and rise at the same time, every night. This creates routine and lets your body know when its time for sleep.
If you’ve tried these things and still suffer from insomnia, it may be time to get checked out for deeper issues. Give us a call at Acubalance and book a free 15 phone consult to learn more.
Dr. Ashley Damm
Naturopathic Doctor – Vancouver, BC