Ways to a better night’s sleep
Sleep is essential to our overall well-being and is one of the most common health concerns. The journey to a better night’s sleep begins with you and it all starts with a plan.
We can start our plan for a better night’s sleep by:
- Becoming aware of our sleep patterns (with the use of a sleep log or other tracking device)
- Learning about our factors that can disrupt our sleep
- Using suggested methods to help sleep
- Monitoring progress and create a routine
- Becoming Aware of Our Sleep Patterns
There are a few different ways we can track our sleep and patterns. You can create your own “Sleep Log” (Listing total hours slept, (including naps), along with food/beverages consumed, exercise and other activities that occurred that may factor in how you sleep.) You can also view a free sample sleep log at: www.sleepfoundation.org.
Sleep can also be tracked through technology with the use of certain devices such as fitness trackers or “Smart Watch” devices (Common examples would be Fitbit or Apple’s iWatch).
I personally find using the Sleep Log to give a more detailed account of sleep and habits, as with my own fitness tracker, it just lets me know approximately how many hours of sleep (and listing moments of movement/predicted “awake time” that occurred in the night)
Common factors that can disrupt our sleep include:
- Stress (Mental, Physical, and Emotional)
- Environment (In and outside of the home)
- Room temperature (Not too hot or cold: it’s suggested 16-18 ℃)
- Electronics (TV, Computer, Phone)
- Poor quality mattress
- Travel (Being in motion, Jet Lag, Different Time Zones)
- Shift Work
- Suggested Methods for Helping with Sleep
- Create awareness of factors that may be attributed to your lack of sleep (as mentioned above). Record and review your “Sleep Log” and/or tracking device regularly
- Create a “Sleep Plan”/“Bedtime Ritual” using positive routines of unwinding for the night and getting to bed at a decent time
- Asking yourself if your mattress/pillow/bedding serving you the way it should? If not, can changes be made?
- Engaging in a healthy diet and not eating too heavy of a meal two to three hours before bedtime
- Limiting caffeine, alcohol and sugar intake
Regular exercise is wonderful for overall health, but try not to exercise two hours or less before your planned bedtime. Endorphins (natural energy bursts) from exercise may make it more challenging to come to a relaxed and calm state just before bedtime. I have found exercise during the day has created a good balance in my state of rest for the evening.
Herbs (herbal teas, aromatherapy, supplements) like chamomile, lavender and melatonin can be helpful, but please consult with your trusted medical professional when taking any new supplements as it may conflict with certain medications/health concerns)
Breathing exercises can help calm the body and mind. One I often do is: Three Part Breathing. With a natural breath, start off bringing your hands to your belly and feeling the gentle rise and fall as fresh air enters and as used air leaves your body. Next, you can bring your hands to your rib cage, and feel the gentle rise and fall of your ribcage. After you can bring your hands to your chest, and feel the gentle rise and fall of your chest….noticing if you can also feel the natural beat of your heart. Take a couple of deep breaths – focusing your breath travelling to and from all three of these areas; breathing fully and completely. Then just return your breathing back to a natural breath. I find by focusing on my breath I’m able to quiet my body and my mind.
- Limit TV/Computer/Electronics before going to sleep and unplug for the night.
- Make your bedroom a haven (declutter, decorate and dedicate your bedroom to only being a bedroom – a place of rest)
- Body care (Massages, having a bath, shower, hot tub, spa) can also allow us to physically unwind and can also be helpful in pain management.
- Keep a notepad/pen close by to jot down your “To Do List”/Reminders/Ongoing thoughts that may come up preventing you from going into a state of rest.
- Use of an eye mask/eye pillow/eye cover can help block out light, and can quiet the mind.
- Seeking professional help when needed. (Doctor, Counselling, or a sleep clinic)