As this first semester of third year comes to an end I can feel the fatigue starting to set in. I’m waking up early, mentally straining my brain all day, and then staying up too late at night. This is only going to get worse as the snow starts to fall and I need to begin waking up earlier to begin my winter commute. Not to mention our strenuous exam schedule looming in the coming weeks.
I carried these bad sleep habits over form last year, even though I promised myself I would make changes to my sleep habits. Good sleep hygiene is so important for both quantity and quality of sleep. Not sure if you’re considered a “good sleeper”? Google “Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index” and fill out the questionnaire to get a more accurate reading on your current sleep habits. It’s a useful tool to not only diagnose insomnia, but to see where you are on the scale in general. It’s estimated that 1 in 7 Canadians over the age of 15 have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and are diagnosed with insomnia . Regardless of being labelled with the diagnosis, I would assume sleep difficulties are more common than 1 in 7.
An easy solution to get yourself on the right track is improving your sleep hygiene – clean sleep is good sleep! Here are some tips on sleep hygiene that I’m going to try implementing into my nightly routine.
1. Power down – so many of us are glued to our laptops/smartphones – give yourself an “electronic-free” period 30-60 minutes before bed to allow your brain to wind down.
2. Good blinds – We have spoken endlessly this summer about needing to update our blinds because way too much light is getting in. Your brain needs the dark to begin stimulating the release of melatonin, the natural substance we produce to promote sleep. With a bright room you will not get the adequate melatonin release needed to induce sleepiness. Block out those street lamps with a good quality blind and turn your alarm clocks around (these count!).
3. Exercise – A late night exercise session can keep you awake on an endorphin high, but exercise in general promotes a healthier sleep cycle. Moderate exercise of 20-30 minutes of brisk walking 4-5 times per week is adequate – try and get that heart rate up to a point where you’re moving but can still carry on a conversation without feeling out of breath.
4. Reserve the bedroom for sex and sleep – Your bed is for two things and two things only. I find it way too easy to curl in in my duvet to study on cold winter days but we have to resist this urge! Associating your bed with negative thoughts of work or studying is only going to bring those emotions into focus when you’re trying to fall asleep at night.
5. Keep your room neat & tidy – just like our moms used to say! De-clutter your room and keep them clean to remove any visual distractions.
6. Avoid stimulants before bed – this isn’t just coffee and tea but alcohol as well. “But alcohol makes me drowsy?” you say… This is true. Alcohol consumption promotes stages 1 and 2 of sleep, which is considered “light” sleep but it actually inhibits us from entering the REM cycle. REM sleep is vital as this is where we reset, ideas are committed to memory and it contributes to our creativity! Without ever entering this cycle we wake feeling groggy, grumpy, and like we in fact didn’t sleep at all.
Sleep is so important to our well-being and unfortunately many of us are walking around deprived, including myself. Setting yourself up for success at night time is key to breaking those bad sleep habits and entering a cycle where you feel refreshed and energized.
In love & health,
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