Sleeping Better

If you're like most people, you don't get enough sleep. We live in a 24 hour a day society that almost never shuts down and we are getting significantly less sleep than before. Canadians are sleeping an average of 7 hours or less per night, perhaps the lowest amount of sleep than at any time in Canadian history. In 1850 the average was 9 1/2 of sleep per night, but this had dropped to 8 hours by 1950.

A study, in which participants were given an opportunity to sleep as much as they could, indicated that on average those people slept 8 1/2 hours per night. They also reported that having more sleep made them feel
happier and less fatigued, with more energy.

How to sleep well:

* Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, including the weekends.
* Try not to engage in any activity or work that causes an increase in adrenaline after a certain hour in the evening. The TV may have to be turned off earlier (or, just cut the cord!)
* Reduce the amount of light in the house as early in the evening as possible so as to have a darkened environment (this will trigger the production of melatonin, a crucial brain hormone for sleep onset).
* Stay away from all types of stimulants in the evening (for example, caffeine, spicy foods, etc.).
* Do not try to force yourself to fall asleep.
* Choose a quiet place to sleep.
* Establish regular exercise in your schedule (this is perhaps the single most important thing to do!).
* Learn and use a relaxation technique, such as slow, deep-breathing, calming self-talk and pleasant imagery.
* Clear your mind before you go to bed (by writing down whatever may be bothering you so you can deal with it the next day).
* If you awake during the night, stay in bed unless you absolutely have to get up.
* You can make up lost sleep by sleeping more on weekends, or taking a nap the next afternoon for the amount of sleep lost the night before.
* Avoid using sleeping pills, which only have a temporary, artificial affect, and can be addictive. They may be helpful temporarily to cope with bereavement or dislocation. "Natural" sleep aids, such as melatonin may create more problems if used long term or with other prescription medications.