The Importance of Sleep
Natural sleep is one of the most powerful immune system boosters, aiding in our ability to ward off illness and infection. Quality sleep is necessary for injury recovery, forming new memories, maintaining a healthy body weight and managing stress and anxiety.
Your Personal Habits
• Fix a regular and consistent bedtime and wake time, even if you are retired or not working.
• Avoid napping during the day as this will affect your sleep drive – your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
• Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. While alcohol has an immediate sleep-inducing effect, a few hours later, as the alcohol levels in your blood start to fall, there is a stimulant or wake-up effect.
• Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea, energy drinks, pop, as well as chocolate, ice cream and many pain relievers.
• Open the blinds first thing in the morning or get outside in natural light. This helps to set your internal clock and promotes melatonin production (the sleepy hormone) at bedtime.
• Exercise every day to help build your drive to sleep.
Your Sleeping Environment
• Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room. Let your body “know” that the bed is associated with sleeping.
• Room should be dark, cool (19-21 °C) and well ventilated.
• Ensure your room is calm and quiet (use a noise machine to block out all distracting noise).
Consistent Bedtime Routine
• Eat a light snack with a protein and a complex carbohydrate. Low blood sugar can lead to night waking. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, can help promote sleepiness.
• Establish a pre-sleep ritual, such as a warm bath (your body needs to drop in temperature to help sleep process), a cup of chamomile tea or a few minutes of reading.
• Practice relaxation techniques before bed, such as yoga, light stretching, deep breathing or meditation (check out guided meditation apps – Calm, Insight Timer, Yoga Nidra, 10 % Happier)
• Don’t take your worries to bed. Try journaling or doing a ‘brain dump’ to see the worries on paper. Some people find it useful to assign a “worry period” during the evening or late afternoon to process these issues.
• Get into your favorite sleeping position. If you don’t fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, get up, go into another room, and read until sleepy.
• If you find wake in the middle of night and cannot get back to sleep within 20-30 minutes, then leave the bed. Read, do a calming and quiet activity, or take a bath. *Avoid screens as light disrupts melatonin production.
Weekly Sleep Diary
Use this to track your progress, putting a checkmark beside the strategy you used and rating your sleep quality for that night.