Written by Komalpreet Kaur
We often relate health with a healthy diet, physical activity, mental and emotional health but sleep is in some ways neglected in health conversations today. Sleep is the foundation of good health and it is important for every facet of life. Sleep deprivation affects every aspect of life whether it is physical wellness, mental wellness, job performance or social relationships.
Why do you need to sleep?
- To improve your energy levels
- Boosts your immune system
- Improves heart health
- Improves brain function
- Good for memory
- Better cognitive functions
- For the emotional well being
- For better weight management
- For better mental health
Canada and the USA are the third and fourth most sleep-deprived countries respectively. One in three Canadians isn’t getting enough sleep and almost half of Canadians do not find their sleep refreshing.
Recommended healthy sleep hours by the sleep foundation are as followed:
- Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
- Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
- School-age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
- Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours
Both too little and too much sleep can have poor health impacts.
Effects of too little sleep:
- Poor concentration, memory and vigilance
- Sleepiness, tiredness, fatigue, irritability and weariness
- Increased risk-taking, suggestibility
- Poor immune system
- Increased risk of diabetes and morbidity
- Increased mortality
- Early ageing
Effects of too much sleep:
- Back pain
Sleep is a basic physiological need. The less good-quality sleep you have, the greater your sleepiness will be, not only when you’re about to go to bed, but at other times as well. According to Dr. Chris Idzikowski (an expert on sleep and its disorders), the three main factors that affect daytime sleepiness are:
- The duration of your nighttime sleep (how long you’ve slept during the night)
- The quality of your nighttime sleep (how well you’ve slept)
- The circadian time (the time of the day)
Your sleeping space
Your bedroom must only be used for sleep and intimacy. Make some ‘keep out’ rules.
Keep out TV – Television is one of the greatest reasons for ignoring the urge to fall asleep. Television acts as a stimulant and keeps the brain active. Moreover keeping the TV on while getting ready for bed and then keeping it on when you are in the bed may make you overlook your body’s sleep signals. So place your TV out of the bedroom.
Keep out work – Your bedroom is not an office where you need to check your emails, texts or read papers. Keep your notifications on silent for the night and your phone’s screen light to a minimum. Do not bring your laptop by your bedside. Your brain links work to being alert and focused, work is not conducive to sleep.
Create your sleep paradise!
The temperature, light and noise levels, and your bed are crucial factors that make the bedroom a perfect place to sleep. The first step in getting a better night’s sleep is to create a perfect bedroom environment.
- Turn off the lights, turn your alarm clock to face away from you, your phone must be away and on silent
- Close the drapes or curtains or use a sleep mask
- You can use earplugs to keep noise out or keep windows closed to block heavy traffic noise out
- Consider double or triple glazing your bedroom to block the noise out
- The mattress soft or hard must be according to your comfort
- The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67degree Fahrenheit for optimal sleep.
You can also consider the colours in your bedroom. Studies show that peaceful whites, pale blues, and calming greens make it easier for us to fall asleep. Another way to make your bedroom feel calm is to cut down on the clutter. If you do not have much time to clean up and declutter simply spend 15 minutes cleaning up what bothers you the most. Feng Shi consultants and Zen practitioners insist that free flow of energy in your physical environment brings peace, prosperity and love.
Undo your stress
Limit your exposure to stressful situations and take frequent breaks during the day and learn to say no to any additional projects. Jot down your thoughts in a diary before going to bed. It will help empty your mind and help you relax and sleep better. Use music as therapy for relaxing. The calm music such as zen music or wave sounds can calm your mind and help you sleep. For some people, aromatherapy with essential oils such as lavender or jasmine is also beneficial. A gratitude journal before sleep can also help you feel better and promote sleep and meditation before bedtime also has a calming effect. Healthy eating, physical exercise and connecting with friends and family can help reduce stress and help you get better sleep.
Eat well for better sleep
Caffeine and alcohol are sleep thieves!
Limit your caffeine intake, reduce the amount of caffeine consumed in the afternoon and evenings. Caffeine stimulates the brain by blocking the action of hormones that makes you feel sleepy. The effects of caffeine might persist for up to 4-6 hours after consumption – always avoid caffeine consumption right before bedtime.
Energy Drinks are more of a hype than help as they contain lots of sugar. Caffeine hampers the normal mechanisms in the body (i.e. the sleep/wake cycle). The only way to rest the body is by getting a good night’s sleep.
Alcohol sedates you but does not put you to sleep – instead, it fragments your sleep all night. Beer, wine, etc. are poor sleep aids, as they stop your brain from entering the deeper stages of sleep, making you feel less rested and tired the next day. This is another reason why hangovers occur. Alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM or dream sleep.
Avoid eating dinner right before bed as it is hard to fall asleep with a fuller stomach, considering it keeps your body active and delays sleep. You must try to finish dinner 3-4 hours before bedtime for easy sleep.
Think your way to a good night’s rest
Develop a sleep ritual like brushing your teeth or a warm shower right before bed every day, as these can signal your brain for sleep. Reading a few pages of a book while in bed can also help put you to sleep. This practice is conducive to sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day sets your body clock and is helpful in getting good quality sleep. If you need to reset your sleep cycle in one day, stop eating for the 16 hours before the time you want to wake up.
Sleep is crucial for living a healthy life. Sleep deprivation triggers both physical and mental illness and may also bring social isolation and despair. If you struggle with sleep, have sleep anxiety or sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, please speak with your physician and take measures to get a better sleep today.
Improve your sleep to enhance the quality of your life.
Employees who sleep better work better
Sleep Deprivation negatively impacts the energy levels and productivity of the employees and the company. Sleep insufficiency and sleep deprivation are linked to various physical and mental health issues and increased risk of workplace injury leading to more disability claims in the company thereby increasing the health cost for the employer. Here’s how employers can improve the sleep of their employees:
- Promote the importance of sleep in their company culture
When employers talk to their employees about the importance of sleep they are more likely to influence their employees into sleeping better. Employers can circulate monthly newsletters stressing on a healthy lifestyle and some tips to improve sleep to help employees improve the quality of their life.
- On-site napping
Employers can have on-site nap stations to facilitate 10-30 minutes of power naps for their employees. It improves the energy and productivity levels of the employees and reduces work-related stress.
- Workplace wellness programs
Smoking cessation programs, onsite fitness facilities, meditation, mindfulness and yoga as wellness programs in an organization can help improve the general health of employees. The programs on healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality and quantity in employees.
Optimity can help you improve your sleep and health through various activities and challenges. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how Optimity can help you.
Adapted from Sound Asleep – The expert guide to sleeping well by Dr. Idzikowski C; Ten natural ways to a good night’s sleep by Dr. Linardakis N.