Dispensing Knowledge

Seeking Slumber

A good night’s rest is important to function properly the next day. For many, difficulty falling or staying asleep complicates things. Some medications that are used for sleep have unintended consequences, such as daytime sleepiness, rebound insomnia, and may put you at an increased risk of falls and cognitive impairment. Before you turn to medications, read these 10 non-medicinal ways to ease your mind into sleep.

If you live in a noisy or well-lit area, your environment may be contributing to your difficulties sleeping. Try to reduce the light and sound that makes its way into your bedroom by turning off hallway lights, fans or other sources of light or sound. You may also consider wearing ear plugs and a sleep mask.

Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day (this includes weekends too!). This helps to get your body into a rhythm so it can better sense when it is time to sleep and wake up. This also prevents oversleeping, which we will discuss next.

Although it is tempting, try to avoid sleeping-in or taking daytime naps. You may feel more refreshed during the day, but this double-edged sword can actually make it harder to sleep the next night.

Take time to exercise each day. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise each week. Exercise helps to reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease, and by tiring you out, it can also help you sleep better.

The substances that you put into your body can affect how well you sleep. As caffeine can keep you awake at night, try to limit or avoid caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and evening. Instead, you can try an alternative such as decaf coffee or caffeine-free tea. Alcoholic beverages initially work to make you relaxed, but once you enter the second-half of your sleep cycle, alcohol may make you more restless and cause sleep disturbances. Smoking cigarettes may also be contributing to your sleep difficulties. Try to avoid smoking after 7:00pm to help reduce the effects of cigarettes on your sleep.

Only use the bedroom for sleep and intimacy. Reading, watching TV, or working in the bedroom will unintentionally cause you to associate your bedroom with these activities and may make it harder for you to see your bedroom as a place for rest.

If you wake up during the night and are unable to fall asleep after 15-20 minutes, do not stay in your room tossing and turning! Go to a different area of the house and do something quiet in a low-light setting. Do not watch TV or use any light-emitting screens; these may cause you to feel more alert. Once you feel tired, go back to your bedroom to sleep.

If you find that looking at the clock while you are falling asleep gives you anxiety, then turn the clock away from you. Continuing to check the clock can make you fixate on the time which prevents restful sleep.

Take time before bed each night to quietly read or have a warm bath. Doing these activities before bed can help you get in the mindset for sleep.

Finally, if your life worries keep you awake at night, take time before bed to write them down and outline how you will address each worry. This will help you to clear your mind prior to sleep.

We hope that these ten strategies can help you fall into a peaceful slumber every night. Until next week, sweet dreams!