“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book” is an Irish proverb – and how true it really is. Why is getting a good night’s sleep so important? If you are not sleeping well, not only is your mental health affected but it can also affect you physically in many ways such as your immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and heart health.
In a world where anxiety and stress are at an all-time high, our sleep is beginning to suffer even more than usual. Knowing that – how can we make sure not only ourselves, but our youth are getting enough sleep?
The following are some sleep hygiene tips that can help ensure healthy sleep can be obtained:1) Have a regular schedule. Ensuring you are going to bed and waking up at the same time every day even though you may want to change it up occasionally. This trains our brain that it is time to sleep.
2) Only sleep when you are feeling sleepy. If you are not able to sleep after 20 minutes, get up and do a calming or boring activity until you begin to feel sleepy again (try to avoid screens).
3) Avoid caffeine and nicotine at least 4-6 hours before bed as these substances act as stimulants.
4) Only use your bed for sleeping or intimacy. This will help you train your brain that when you are in bed, it is for sleep.
5) Try not to nap, however if you cannot avoid having one, make sure it is for less than an hour and before 3pm.
6) Baths – if you are someone that enjoys having a bath, having one 1-2 hours before bed can be helpful! Research has shown that sleepiness is associated with a drop in body temperature so as your body temperature decreases after the bath, it is signaling your brain it is time to go to bed.
7) Stop clock-watching! Place something over your alarm clock’s face or place your phone far enough away you cannot reach for it from your bed. This can reinforce negative thoughts and anxiety.
8) Healthy living – making sure you are exercising and eating well is very important! Try not to do any heavy exercise 4 hours before bed and if you are hungry, a light snack before bed is best; try to avoid heavy meals.
9) Make your own bedtime ritual. Every night starts your ritual – whatever it may be that works for you. This could be a bath, having a tea, washing your face, and brushing your teeth, reading a book on the couch, and then heading to bed. This signals your brain that yes – this is time for my body to sleep.
If sleep continues to be a concern, you can always speak to a health professional and have a referral for a sleep study completed. Sometimes it can be completely physiological. Signs that there may be physical concerns affecting your sleep is snoring and frequent waking throughout the night.