Sleep is a fundamental part of our lives and crucial for our health.

Most of us know we should be getting a good night’s sleep, however, for some of us, it’s not that easy! More than a third of American adults don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. The average adult needs seven to nine hours sleep each night, though exactly how much is required for each person varies depending on factors such as age, sex, health, and lifestyle. When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, there are many factors to consider, including stress, health conditions, shift work, family responsibilities etc.

So why is sleep so important?

Sleep is necessary for long-term health and allows our body to regenerate, affecting almost every type of tissue and system in the body. Interestingly, Sleeps biological purpose is still being investigated today. Chronic sleep deprivation can impair immunity, negatively impact mental health, increase the risk of medical conditions such as heart attack and stroke, as well as increase susceptibility to weight gain. Small amounts of a hormone called growth hormone are released during the day, but most secretion occurs during sleep. Growth hormone has some important roles in the body, including tissue and liver regeneration, muscle building, breakdown of fat stores and the normalization of blood sugar regulation.

About 33% of Americans reportedly experience difficulty sleeping, but why is this? The answer to this is multifactorial and varies from person to person, however, a few possible reasons for sleep deprivation may include:
• Technology (We live in a 24-hour society. TV’s, cell phones and the Internet have changed the way we operate. The light that is given off laptops, phones, and TV has an impact on our sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin)
• Depression, anxiety, and stress.
• Certain foods, beverages, and medications.
• Work demands (hazy work boundaries, long commute times and technological advances mean people have less time to switch off).
• Use of stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine.
• Social factors.
And more…

(fun fact – humans are the only mammal that willingly delays sleep!)

The good news is that there are many simple, effective things we can do to help ourselves get more sleep! One of the ways to do this is with proper sleep hygiene, a collection of practices that aid in healthy sleep.

Here are some strategies you could try to help yourself get more sleep:

  • Establish a routine; going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day (even on weekends if possible!)
  • Sleep in a dark, cool, quiet room that you feel comfortable in.
  • Get enough exercise during the day (though try to avoid stimulating exercise late at night, as this can be stimulating)
  • Establish a pre-bedtime routine. This may involve herbal tea, having a bath or doing a relaxing activity like reading.
  • Reduce screen time before bed and use night mode settings where applicable. Try to shut down electronics at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
  • Avoid keeping mobile phones and computers in the bedroom or use nighttime modes when able.
  • Practice meditation or breathing techniques. This can be done in the evening before bedtime or during the day as well to help relax the mind and feel more grounded.
  • Journalling. Some people find making lists or journaling before bed helps take the worry out of their minds and puts it onto paper, to be addressed the following day as needed.
  • Reduce your intake of stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and chocolate. Stimulants arouse the fight or flight part of our nervous system and encourage wakefulness. Alcohol can also be disruptive for sleep (e.g a glass of wine with dinner is a better option than drinking right before bed).

Making changes to our lifestyle or routine, such as prioritizing getting a better night’s sleep, often takes time, effort and consistency. However, when we do, the rewards can be great (such as more energy and motivation to do your Physio exercises!) 🙂

Note: Please talk to your health care provider if you are struggling with sleeplessness or insomnia and need advice and support. For conditions such as insomnia, it is important to identify and address the causative factors, and assess whether this is psychological in nature or related to other conditions.

References:
– Daniel A. Barone, Let’s Talk about Sleep: A Guide to Understanding and Improving Your Slumber (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) 2018
– Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, The encyclopedia of natural medicine, third edition (New York: Atria paperback) 2012
– Gregory Fricchione, Ana Ivkovic and Albert Yeung, The science of stress (University of Chicago Press) 2016
– https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/

Author:
Emma Ashworth
Registered Physiotherapist, BSc (hons)
Can’t Sleep? Try These Strategies Tonight!
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